TELLURIDE – It was a hot day on the SBX course for the U.S. as Lindsey Jacobellis (Stratton, VT) and Faye Gulini (Salt Lake City) took first, and Nate Holland (Squaw Valley, CA) and Nick Baumgartner (Iron River, MI) second at the Visa Snowboardcross Cup team SBX event in Telluride Sunday.
In the team SBX format, national teams of two race each other. Four racers go down the course and once they cross the finish line, a sensor drops the gate of their teammate and the racing ensues till the first athlete crosses the finish line. The Olympic silver medalist Jacobellis, who aced each of her heats, was teamed up with newcomer Gulini who, at just 17, was able to hold off world-class competitors for the Team win.
"I was so proud of her. She was riding so well down the whole course. She definitely nailed it and that's what it's going to take to hold off the Canadians," Jacobellis said of Gulini.
"It's amazing as a rider to see her develop at such a young age." As for the women's strategy, Jacobellis led for the holeshot and Gulini made sure the gap never got closed. "I have a weaker pull, so having Lindsey go first to give me that holeshot definitely made a huge difference," Gulini said. Jacobellis and Gulini were followed in second by Canadians Maelle Ricker and Dominique Maltais and Switzerland's Simona Meiler and Tanja Frieden were third. The men's team races were all intense with little room for first and second lap mistakes. In the end, the French team of Xavier De Le Rue and Pierre Vaultier took first, followed in a painstakingly close second by Holland and Baumgartner.
"Today was a blast. I knew I had three good races in me. Baumgartner did a great job getting me out of the gate in either first or second," Holland said. "It's pretty cool, this team event. I was Baumgartner's biggest fan today. I'd watch him go out of the gate, root for him as much as I could, and then it was time for me to put up my end of the bargain."
According to Baumgartner, the team format is exciting because of the reliance on teammates to do well, and the two run chance to win the event.
"I dig it. Everyone knows we have the U.S. team, but it's mainly an individual sport. It's a different bond you get when you start to rely on each other," Baumgartner said. "He's my biggest fan when I go out of the gate and when I finish down here, I'm screaming for him. It makes you closer, tighter and makes for great racing." Ross "The Boss" Powers (Okemo, VT) and his team SBX comrade Graham Watanabe (Sun Valley, ID) were also poised to make the final with Powers winning each of the first runs and Watanabe keeping the lead. But, in the semi final round after Powers crossed the finish line first, Watanabe's start was a little too strong. "I got a little too jazzed in the start and made an early move over a tall roller - but it was too early and I got bucked off balance. I had to hike up over a feature. I made up time, but not enough," Watanabe said. But, all in all, Powers, who was third in the SBX World Cup Saturday, enjoyed the racing regardless of the finish. "I feel better and better every day, and today's team race was a lot of fun. It was cool for me to be out there with Graham having a good time," Powers said. "Just to go out there and win each one of my heats was huge. I can leave here with great confidence, enjoy the holidays, and go to Europe strong and try to make this team." The snowboardcross athletes now have a break before heading to Bad Gastein, Austria, Jan. 9-11.
OFFICIAL RESULTS 2010 Visa Snowboardcross Cup Telluride, CO - Dec. 20, 2009 Team SBX Men 1. France 2 (De La Rue, Vaultier) 2. USA 2 (Holland, Baumgartner) 3. Canada1 (Robertson, Nielson) 4. Austria (Schairer, Fuchs) 5. USA 2 (Watanabe, Powers) Women 1. USA 1 (Jacobellis, Gulini) 2. Canada (Ricker; Maltais) 3. Switzerland 1 (Frieden, Meiler) 4. Switzerland 2 (Francon, Aubry) 5. Japan (Doi, Kuwashima) - 7. USA2 (Chythlook-Sifsof, Yamada)
POSTED Sunday, 12/20
TELLURIDE - Ross Powers (Okemo, VT) rode to third at the Visa U.S. Snowboardcross World Cup at Telluride Resort in Colorado on Saturday afternoon, with the 2002 Olympic halfpipe gold medalist’s finish leading a men’s field crammed with American competitors.
Powers, owner of more halfpipe titles than any snowboarder in history, furthered his bid to medal in another discipline by making the podium in the second of five Olympic qualifications for the men.
"The first few rounds went great, I was getting good starts up top," Powers said. "Final race, I’d been getting great starts all day, and got a bad start up top. I tried to catch up, landed flat on everything, but luckily the guys had a little mix-up on turn four and I came through and got on the podium.”
Powers was happy to prove that last year’s podium in Sunday River, ME was no fluke and that he was a viable contender for the Olympic Team.
He becomes the third U.S. rider to grab a top-four World Cup result in just two events, after Seth Wescott (Sugarloaf, ME) and Graham Watanabe (Sun Valley, ID) took second and third, respectively, in Argentina. A top four result is the lead qualifying criteria for the top spots on the Olympic Team.
"I grew up doing a little of everything, racing gates, doing freestyle," Powers said. “I used to battle it out with Wescott every weekend. In ’06, I was the alternate in the halfpipe, went over to Torino, watched these guys do snowboardcross, and I was fired up about it."
Wescott encouraged him to try it, and Powers worked his way onto the team last year.
The U.S. qualified ten men and two women for Saturday’s finals on a challenging course designed by Olympic course builder Jeff Ihaksi.
Olympic gold medalist Wescott was sixth for the men, taking second in a small final that featured three Americans. Five-time X Games gold medalist Nate Holland (Squaw Valley, CA) finished seventh and Graham Watanabe (Hailey, ID) crashed early into eighth.
The knowledge that Watanabe was out and he had nothing to lose led to a nasty landing later in the race for Holland.
"That fifth was still pretty important to me, I really wanted that heat," Holland said. "So I made a pass in turn three on Wescott and just went into turn four with Xavier de la Rue just head-to-head. I know he’s fast and in control, so I trusted him."
Holland touched de la Rue’s board and lost balance before a jump on the fastest part of the course.
"It scared the crap out of me in the air," he said. "I had time to think about how bad it was going to hurt. Luckily I had time enough to squirm a little bit and get the feet down first and take some of the compression."
Watanabe felt he missed an opportunity to join Powers in the big final, but was pleased with his overall performance.
"It was a really good day, I’m super psyched," Watanabe said. “You know, I’m never content with a small final, but I’m really happy with the way the day went.
"Early in the day I made it tough on myself, had to make some passes, but then finally got a holeshot in the semifinal round, but I left an inside line and left the door open," he said. "All said and done, lot of great racing today and Telluride did a great job with the event."
Torino silver medalist Lindsey Jacobellis (Stratton, VT) had her board clipped on the final set of jumps by eventual women’s winner Maelle Ricker (Canada), causing her to crash after a great start in her first heat.
"Lindsey rode great, and I don’t think she did anything wrong,” said U.S. Snowboarding Head Coach Peter Foley. "She had a great race, she smoked the top, she and Maelle just tangled it up. Sometimes you can stay on your feet and sometimes you can’t, but she went down."
Faye Gulini (Salt Lake City, UT) won the final qualifying spot for the women’s race Friday and took a career best eighth after getting second in the first heat with Jacobellis.
Three World Cup events remain for Olympic Team qualifying, Jan. 10-21 in Austria, Switzerland and Quebec.
Action wraps up in the Visa Snowboardcross Sunday with a Team SBX event.
Fans can find more news from Telluride at ussnowboarding.com, facebook.com/ussnowboarding and twitter.com/ussnowboarding.
2010 LG FIS SNOWBOARDING WORLD CUP
Visa U.S. Snowboardcross Cup
Telluride, CO - Dec. 19, 2009
1. Pierre Vaultier, France
2. Robert Fagan, Canada
3. Ross Powers, Okemo, VT
4. David Bakes, Czech Republic
5. Xavier de le Rue, France
6. Seth Wescott, Sugarloaf, ME
7. Nate Holland, Squaw Valley, CA
8. Graham Watanabe, Sun Valley, ID
9. Nick Baumgartner, Iron River, MI
11. Alex Deibold, New Haven, CT
16. J.J. Tomlinson, Park City, UT
21. Shaun Palmer, South Lake Tahoe, CA
31. Robert Minghini, South Lake Tahoe, CA
1. Maelle Ricker, Canada
2. Simona Meiler, Switzerland
3. Dominique Maltais, Canada
5. Mellie Francon, Switzerland
5. Helene Olafsen, Norway
8. Faye Gulini, Salt Lake City
11. Lindsey Jacobellis, Stratton, VT
POSTED Saturday 12/19
TELLURIDE - A dynamic, never let you rest snowboardcross course courtesy of Olympic course builder Jeff Ihaksi tested the world's best SBX athletes Friday as men and women competed in qualifications for the Visa U.S. Snowboardcross World Cup at Telluride Resort in Colorado. The U.S. qualified nine men and two women into the competition, which is set for Saturday afternoon.
The U.S. men were led by none other than Olympic gold medalist Seth Wescott (Sugarloaf, ME) who was second. Three other U.S. men marked top 10 speeds with World Championship bronze medalist Nick Baumgartner (Iron River, MI) in third, 2002 Olympic halfpipe gold medalist Ross Powers (Okemo, VT) in sixth and five-time X Games gold medalist Nate Holland (Squaw Valley, CA) in ninth.
"It's great. The speed is really good across the board and I'm pretty excited to see how the pack races go," U.S. Snowboarding Head Coach Peter Foley said.
In the women's race the sun started to sink in the sky, throwing shadows across what most are calling an inventive and relentless course, and making the women's race a challenge to make the top 16. The one and only Lindsey Jacobellis (Stratton, VT) marked one of two U.S. women's spots, finishing eighth.
"Last week she trained a lot faster, especially in comparison to the boys, than what she did today. It's fine where she's qualified, but it seemed like she wasn't riding at her top speed," Foley said.
Following Jacobellis was Salt Lake City's Faye Gulini who rounded off the women's field in 16th.
If the day left spectators with anything, it's that Saturday's World Cup, the second of five Olympic qualification events for the U.S., will be competed on a course that never gives the athletes a moment's rest.
"It's a super challenging course in a lot of ways. The features are sharp and kicky at first, then it goes into high speed sections. The jumps are varying in length, so you can't just ride off of each one, you have to suck it up or pop it to get to the landing," Foley said. "Then there are turns and you have to be a great turner in those. After that you have another set of big jumps. There's really a wide variety of skills involved and all kinds of different challenges."
Fans can stay tuned for news from Telluride at ussnowboarding.com, facebook.com/ussnowboarding and twitter.com/ussnowboarding.
2010 LG FIS SNOWBOARDING WORLD CUP
Visa U.S. Snowboardcross Cup
Telluride, CO - Dec. 18, 2009
Qualifications (Top 5 plus U.S. in top 32)
1. David Bakes, Czech Republic
2. Seth Wescott, Sugarloaf, ME
3. Nick Baumgartner, Iron River, MI
4. Tom Velisek, Canada
5. Robert Fagan, Canada
6. Ross Powers, Londonderry, VT
9. Nate Holland, Squaw Valley, CA
12. Shaun Palmer, South Lake Tahoe, CA
13. Graham Watanabe, Sun Valley, ID
18. Alex Deibold, Manchester Center, VT
27. Jayson Hale, Sierraville, CA
31. Bobby Minghini, South Lake Tahoe, CA
1. Maelle Ricker, Canada
2. Helene Olafsen, Norway
3. Simona Meiler, Switzerland
4. Dominique Maltais, Canada
5. Sandra Frei, Switzerland
8. Lindsey Jacobellis, Stratton, VT
16. Faye Gulini, Salt Lake City