Ted Ligety won a World Cup race for the first time this season, capturing a giant slalom Friday on one of his favorite hills.

The American finished the Pokoren 3 course in a combined time of 2 minutes, 22.02 seconds to win the event for a third straight year. It was the fifth victory of his career.

"It's pretty awesome," Ligety said. "I've always had a good feeling on this hill. And I have been lucky enough to win three times. I feel like I am always doing better toward the end of the season."

Marcel Hirscher of Austria was 0.34 back in second. Kjetil Jansrud of Norway took third, 0.51 behind Ligety. Bode Miller skipped the race to rest his sore ankle before next month's Vancouver Olympics.

The technically demanding hill suits Ligety's style.

"It's not a gliding course like many others GS courses on the circuit," he said.

Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway led Ligety by 0.01 after the opening run but had a poor start and lost time throughout his second run. The defending overall World Cup champion finished fourth, 0.82 behind.

Ligety overtook Benjamin Raich of Austria for first place in the GS standings with 292 points. Raich and Massimiliano Blardone of Italy share second at 259 with two races left.

With another giant slalom Saturday, Ligety is a strong favorite to clinch the discipline's crystal globe again after winning it in 2008.

"It's still anybody's race, but it's nice to have little bit of a buffer," he said.

The race initially has been scheduled for Adelboden but was switched to Kranjska Gora. All of which worked out fine for Ligety.

"It's definitely a big advantage for me having done so well here in the past," he said. "I have never done well in Adelboden."

A giant slalom will be run Saturday and a slalom Sunday, the final World Cup race before the Olympics.

"I have a lot of confidence now," Ligety said. "But it's super hard in this sport to repeat your success and to have good race after good race."

Raich skied off course and almost missed a gate before placing 11th to keep the lead in the overall standings with 927 points. Main rival Carlo Janka of Switzerland finished seventh and narrowed the gap to 62 points.

Didier Cuche of Switzerland, a two-time winner in Kitzbuehel last week, was disqualified for missing the final gate. Cuche hit the next-to-last gate with his right ski, fell and lost a ski and slid over the finish line.

In the opening run, Ivica Kostelic of Croatia crashed as he was thrown off course. He fell backward with his skis up and slid into the safety nets, but did not appear hurt.

Marcus Sandell of Finland was one of the race forerunners. His left kidney was removed because of a Spetember crash during training in Austria.

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