Austria's Marcel Hirscher clears a gate during the men's giant slalom in Adelboden, on January 6, 2018

Adelboden (Switzerland) (AFP) - On-form Marcel Hirscher was fastest on the first run on the Swiss slopes for the giant slalom event at Adelboden on Saturday but his key World Cup rival Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen was breathing down his neck.

Hirscher, who won a 50th World Cup event two days ago in Zagreb, registered 1min 10.53sec whilst Kristoffersen was 0.11sec adrift and another Norwegian Leif Kristian Nestvold was third at 0.65sec.

Another contender for a medal at the Winter Olympics next month, France’s Alexis Pinturault, took a gate too wide and finished fifth at 1min 1min 11.40sec.

Adelboden is seen as a key marker on the World Cup circuit and racers see it as the most prestigious giant slalom event on the circuit.

The 28-year-old Hirscher moved level with Alberto Tomba with his 50th career World Cup win.

Hirscher is now closing in on Austrian Hermann Maier’s total of 54 World Cup wins, but the record of 86 is held by Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark.