Telluride World Cup Races A Success

[youtube]http://youtu.be/_-QN8F0gnvM[/youtube]

The only people in Telluride who were not completely thrilled about the snow falling Friday and Saturday were the snowboarders competing in the World Cup Snowboardcross races. Snow does one thing to a race course—it makes it slower, which is exactly the opposite of what you want as a racer.

So the races this week (World Cup races in ski cross, snowboardcross and team snowboardcross) were all about strategy. The course was designed—again—by snow wizard Jeff Ihaksi, a Canadian who makes the annual trek to Telluride and enlists our army of cat operators and volunteers with shovels and paint sprayers to create the gap jumps, rollers and berms that transform the Misty Maiden run into a spectacular and exciting course. Some years, racers have to worry about carrying too much speed into the tight turns, but this year, it was all about keeping up speed and holding onto momentum. Skiers and snowboarders stayed low over their equipment and tried to catch just enough air to make the gaps, not so much air that they would burn speed as they dangled above the snow. And it was all the more exciting for spectators, as most of the races ended in photo finishes, instead of having some of the riders in the heat crash early leaving just a couple of riders battling to the end. Huge crowds gathered at the finish, and there were flags of every color representing the home countries of racers at the international event.

Don’t worry, there were still plenty of crashes, especially as skiers battled it out under the sunny skies on the first day of competition. The top female finishers in the World Cup Ski Cross race were Fanny Smith of Switzerland in first, Ophelie David of France in second and Anna Holmlund of Sweden in third. Male competitors who dominated the World Cup Ski Cross race were Filip Flisar of Slovenia in first, Brady Leman of Canada in second and Armin Niederer of Switzerland in third.

Americans were a little better represented in the World Cup Snowboardcross race Saturday. So was Telluride/Norwood, with young local rider Hagen Kearney taking 18th in the event—Kearney is new to the U.S. Snowboarding team but has already turned heads on the international circuit, having just taken first place the weekend before in the team snowboardcross World Cup event in Montafon, Austria.

Veteran U.S. Snowboarding team member Seth Wescott took first in Friday’s World Cup race, showing off the skills that earned the rider two gold medals in Olympic competition. Wescott is snowboarding’s poster boy, a clean-cut, softspoken rider from Maine who has dominated the sport for decades and who promotes a sense of camaraderie on the team. Wescott and teammate Nate Holland also took first in the team event on Saturday.

The top female finishers on Friday include Dominique Maltais of Canada, who took first and who stomped the field in every heat, crossing the finish line far ahead of her competitors, with Maelle Ricker of Canada in second, and Alexandra Jekova of Bulgaria in third. Top male finishers included Wescott in first, Alex Pullin of Austria in second and Christopher Robanske of Canada in third.

There were no awards handed out for fashion this week, but in my humble opinion, Team Italia was deserving of such recognition. I thought no ski or snowboard pants would ever best the faux denim worn by the U.S. team in the last Olympic winter games, but the Italian flag pants that the riders had on this week stole my heart. Flashy and cool, the flag pants were easy to spot, even with the heavy snow falling. I suppose Telluride itself earned a special prize, the Miss Congeniality or something like it, for being so generous in sharing our coveted early season and manmade snow to make the course this year. Hopefully that prize will be awarded in the form of lots more storms and plentiful snow for the rest of the season.

If you missed the races in Telluride, you can catch them on TV. The broadcast schedule is here.

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