CRANS-MONTANA, Switzerland (Reuters) - Leading U.S. skiers Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn withdrew from a women's World Cup Alpine combined event on Friday because of safety fears about poor course conditions in Crans-Montana.
Fog and soft course conditions delayed the beginning of the first-run super-G and, after the first three racers skied out near the top, organizers decided to lower the start and rerun the race from the beginning.
The Americans, however, decided that World Cup leader Shiffrin, four-times overall champion Vonn and team mate Laurenne Ross would not race.
“Due to conditions, we weren't comfortable with the amount of risk our athletes had to take to push to be competitive,” said U.S. team women’s head coach Paul Kristofic in a media release.
Despite not starting, Shiffrin maintained her overall World Cup lead as the season-long competition resumed after the world championships break.
“I said before coming into this series, knowing that the weather was supposed to be warm and maybe some snow and rain, that if it wasn’t good, I’m not going to race,” Shiffrin said.
Italy’s Federica Brignone won the race for her fourth career World Cup victory. Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec was second, followed by Austria’s Michaela Kirchgasser in third.
“The problem (with the course) right now is that it’s not cold enough to freeze, and it’s not warm enough for the salt to work,” Vonn said.
“If we get a little cooperation with the weather and the salt works, I think it could potentially be okay (for racing Saturday and Sunday).”
With Shiffrin on the sidelines, Stuhec moved 80 points closer to the American's overall Cup lead but is still 338 points back in third place. Switzerland's Lara Gut remains second, but is out for the rest of the season.
Five speed and four technical events remain on the calendar, plus another combined on Sunday.
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Clare Fallon)