Aubert is Zagreb Snow Queen, Riesch leads overall

By Patrick Lang

ZAGREB (Reuters) - France's Sandrine Aubert won the women's World Cup slalom in Zagreb on Sunday, while Germany's Maria Riesch went to the top of the overall standings after American Lindsey Vonn did not finish.

In a combined time of two minutes and 0.36 seconds, Aubert fought back from fourth in the morning run to claim the fourth World Cup victory of her career.

First leg pacesetter Kathrin Zettel of Austria was second, 0.43 seconds adrift, while Germany's Susanne Riesch was third, 0.74 off the pace, beating her sister Maria by 0.23 seconds.

"Of course it's a race I'd been looking forward to because the prize money and the past winners make it one of the greatest races next to the medal races," Aubert told reporters.

"It's all the more welcome as I'm buying a house. I cannot think of a better way to start the year," added the French skier, now a clear favorite for February's Vancouver Olympics.

"I started the season poorly but with three podiums in succession I can't see why it should stop."

OUT OF REACH

Aubert was the first Frenchwoman to win in Zagreb, while compatriot Jean-Baptiste Grange won the men's competition a year ago.

Zettel must have felt a little frustrated as she had yet to win a slalom and had to settle for her sixth podium placing of the season.

"I thought my lead after the first run was enough to secure my first slalom win and my first win of the season. But Aubert was out of reach," the Austrian said.

Although narrowly beaten by her sister Susanne, world champion Maria Riesch took over the overall World Cup reins from Vonn, who was too hampered by her hand injury to be a match.

Vonn managed a place in the afternoon leg as the 15th fastest qualifier. But the American, who was racing with a splint on her left hand after crashing in Lienz, could not handle the pain of two runs in succession.

"In the first leg I just tried to grit my teeth but I made a foolish mistake in the second. It's a shame because I'm losing my slalom form," she said.

Overall, she is now five points behind Maria Riesch who has 599 points.

"I hope that in a couple of weeks' time, the pain will be gone," said Vonn.

The World Cup calendar is on her side with two downhills and a Super-G in the Austrian resort of Haus im Ennstal later in the week.

(Editing by Sonia Oxley)