The Frenchman had never finished higher than fifth place before yesterday's race in Alta Badia, Italy, and lay only seventh after the first run. But he attacked from the start of the second run and skied an aggressive run of 1min 19.53sec to squeeze out Maier by 0.08sec for a combined time of 2min 39.68sec.
His win was the first for his country at Alta Badia, their 20th in the discipline since the World Cup began and their first in the giant slalom since Franck Piccard triumphed at Soelden in 1993.
Maier - known as "the Hermanator" - was disappointed to finish in second place in a time of 2:39.76, while his compatriot Rainer Salzgeber improved from eighth place after the first leg to steal third place in 2:39.95.
Tom Stiansen, the 1997 world slalom champion, did not fair so well, injuring his achilles tendon during the first run. The 29-year-old Norwegian slalom specialist was fitted with an ankle cast before heading home to Oslo for further treatment.
"He will have to undergo tests to determine how serious the injury is," said David Willeit, a doctor working for the race committee at Alta Badia. Willeit did predict, however, that Stiansen would be unable to compete for "several months."
Italy's Karen Putzer clinched the first World Cup win of her career yesterday as the Italian team produced an upset by beating the favourites in the women's super-G at St Moritz.
Putzer, a former super-G and giant slalom world junior champion, in her third season in the World Cup, started in 20th place on an overcast and blustery day, but charged down the Corviglia piste in a time of 1min 27.37sec. It was the second win in three races for the Italian team at the Swiss resort.
The Croatian prodigy, Janica Kostelic, underwent successful surgery to repair knee ligaments which she had badly torn in a World Cup downhill training crash on Thursday, doctors reported yesterday.
The damage to the 17-year-old's right knee was worse than the doctors had first feared. The six-hour operation in a Basle hospital revealed that the crash had torn all the ligaments and the meniscus cartilage.
Kostelic, who was leading the overall World Cup standings before her fall, will miss the rest of the season and could be out of action for a year.
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