Italy's Blardone wins giant slalom on home snow

By Mark Meadows

ALTA BADIA, Italy (Reuters) - Italy's Massimiliano Blardone wowed his home crowd with a dominant victory in the World Cup giant slalom race in Alta Badia on Sunday.

His compatriot Davide Simoncelli came second but Manfred Moelgg, who had made up an Italian 1-2-3 after the first run, could only finish fifth overall following a lackluster second leg.

France's Cyprien Richard produced a superb second run on the steep Gran Risa piste to storm into third spot.

Benjamin Raich managed to takeover at the top of the overall World Cup standings and clung on to the lead in the giant slalom table after ending up fourth.

The Austrian had struggled first time out and successfully went for broke on his second attempt, although he nearly lost his balance halfway down.

Giant slalom specialist Blardone, 30, went out first on the opening run and set a time of one minute 18.62 seconds which no one could match.

He was quickest again on the second run to the delight of the hardy souls from his fan club who braved the -17 Centigrade temperatures in the picturesque Italian Dolomites.

"Finally I've managed to win a race. All the Italian skiers have had great races on home snow," Blardone, who set a combined time of 2:35.76 to win his first World Cup race since Bad Kleinkirchheim in 2007, told reporters.

Previous overall World Cup leader Carlo Janka was a disappointing joint 18th.

American Bode Miller, struggling with a sprained ankle which also hampered him in the super-G and downhill in nearby Val Gardena over the last two days, failed to qualify for the second run.

(Editing by Alison Wildey)