- Ted Ligety wins World Cup giant slalom at Soelden
- Hat-trick of wins at the venue for 29-year-old American
- Ligety won last two giants slaloms of 2012-13 season
- American Bode Miller returns to competition
American Ted Ligety served notice he will be the man to beat in his favored giant slalom discipline with an emphatic victory in the season opener in Soelden Sunday.
The triple world champion was claiming his third straight win in World Cup giant slalom races and making it a hat-trick at the Austrian venue, matching Austrian legend Hermann Maier.
Ligety, nicknamed 'Ted Shred', had left his rivals in tatters last year as he won by an astonishing 2.75 seconds, but this time around he had to settle for a closer margin over second placed Alexis Pinturault of France and home hope Marcel Hirscher.
"I'm super psyched to win this today," Ligety told the official FIS website after clocking one minute 59.50 seconds for the two legs.
"It wasn't easy conditions on the second run it was dark and bumpy, but any day you win it's a good day, so I can't complain."
Pinterault finished 0.79 seconds adrift with Hirscher just over a second slower than Ligety, who won the last two races of the 2012-13 season.
"I hope to be able to have a season close to what I had last year," Ligety added.
"But repeating what I did last year in giant slalom is going to be difficult and I don't expect to be winning the races by the same margins."
Sunday's race was the start of the journey to the Winter Olympics in Sochi next year and also marked the return of American favorite Bode Miller.
The 36-year-old has not raced for 18 months but despite an unfavorable starting position he was able to finish in 19th place.
"My knee feels better than it has since 2001," said Miller.
"Once I made a decision not to race last year, it took a lot of pressure off and I could focus my recovery."
A massive crowd of 15,000 watched the proceedings on the Rettenbach Glacier, with the start lowered due to strong winds.
Downhill world champion Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway finished joint fourth with France's Steve Missillier.
Austrian veteran Benni Raich, a two time Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion, dropped back to 13th after being fifth on the first run.
But the main focus was on the 29-year-old Ligety, who was joining Italian superstar Alberto Tomba on the career list for giant slalom podiums, 31 in all, fourth among all skiers.
The FIS World Cup circuit next moves to Levi in Finland for a men's and women's slalom on November 16 and 17.