Skiing World Cup starts quest for Hirscher's successor

SOELDEN, Austria (AP) — The Alpine skiing World Cup is entering its most unpredictable season in many years.

The retirement of Marcel Hirscher has opened up the fight for the overall championship again, with a handful of racers tipped as main candidates to succeed the record eight-time overall champion.

The season-opening giant slalom on the Rettenbach glacier on Sunday might give a first indication of the new pecking order, with France's Alexis Pinturault and Norway's Henrik Kristoffersen expected to take leading roles.

Pinturault finished runner-up to Hirscher last season, and the Frenchman increasingly resembles the Austrian standout.

For three years now, Pinturault has been living in Austria during winter to optimize his training opportunities, often sharing the same practice hill with Hirscher.

And like Hirscher, Pinturault will now travel the World Cup circuit with his own team.

"Now all year I am having my own staff around me," Pinturault said. "It makes things a bit easier because they exactly adapt to my plans and needs and that's really important for me."

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