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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Downhill Duel Set to Light Up Championships

SESTRIERE, Italy -- France's Luc Alphand will be taking his duel with Italian Kristian Ghedina to new heights here next week, when they fight for the coveted downhill title in the world championships.

The two-month-old battle between the two friends, interrupted only by Austria's rising star Fritz Strobl, has been one of the highlights of the current World Cup season.

Strobl won the first race and the last before Sestriere, but he has otherwise been just a privileged spectator.

The six intervening races have been split evenly between Alphand and his Italian rival.

"There's not much between us," said the Frenchman, "but I'm glad that there's someone like Kristian around, it makes for exciting racing."

There will certainly be no shortage of excitement here on race day, but the question is whether Alphand can channel all that adrenaline into an elusive first success at a major championship.

Alphand has so far competed at four world championships and two Olympics, with just a single bronze medal.

However, his form this season has filled him with confidence.

In fact, such is Alphand's natural talent, he even has friends in the enemy camp.

Leo Mussi, who prepares Ghedina's skis, said: "Alphand is only the one who doesn't make a sound when he goes down.

"If you're at the side of the piste and someone distracts you, you won't even know he's gone past. All the others, you can hear them loud and clear."

?In Schladming, Austria, Alberto Tomba won his first victory of the season in the night-time slalom race.

Olympic champion Thomas Stangassinger was second with Sebastian Amiez of France in third place.