Ski- and Snowboardcross Events Showcased the World’s Best
TELLURIDE – Telluride’s third staging last week of an early-December Snowboardcross World Cup went off to rave reviews from the athletes and some stirring finishes by American veteran (and Olympic SBX champion) Seth Westcott.
Plus, for the first time, a World Cup skicross event shared the same swooping, high-speed venue on Lower Misty Maiden. Skicross replaced the snowboard parallel GS event (run here the last two years), a specialty that would seem to be in decline, where skicross is on the ascendance; it has just been included, for the first time, in the Sochi 2014 Olympics.
The skiers went first, on Thursday, in the four-at-a-time, horse-race format. Filip Flisar of Slovenia took the men’s title ahead of Brady Leman from Team Canada. Top-ranked U.S. racer John Teller, from Mammoth Lakes, Calif., finished seventh. “I had a terrible start on my first run,” Teller said. “I don’t know if I was awake yet.” He recovered, though, to advance to the semifinals, but not the four-man final group.
“I was happy to get into the small final [the four men from the semis who didn’t make the final four] and finish seventh. A good day.”
Switzerland’s Fanny Smith won the women’s competition beating out veteran Ophelie David of France.
The snowboarders took center stage on Friday, during a blizzard. Canadians dominated on the women’s side, as they have in Telluride events past and on the season-long international stage. Dominique Maltais shared the podium with her compatriot Maelle Ricker.
On the men’s side Sugarloaf, Maine, native Westcott (he is sponsored by L.L. Bean) came from behind time and again, drafting other racers until the moment he could slingshot past them to advance from heat to heat. In the final he edged Australian rival Alex Pullin.
“On the lower section, I was waiting for someone to slingshot me,” Westcott said. “But I didn’t want to look. I was just down in my tuck hoping that finish line would come as fast as it could.” It was a photo finish, with Westcott inches in front of Pullin. Two years ago in Telluride, he lost a photo finish to Frenchman Pierre Vaultier.
Saturday’s final races were the SBX team events. (The skicrossers don’t do the team thing for some reason.) The top two qualifiers from each national squad go together against the best of the rest. It’s not a points race, so the athletes were loose and having fun, though when it came down to it, the competition was as fierce as ever.
The Quebecois duo of Dominique Maltais and Maelle Ricker won again, ahead of teams from Switzerland and Italy. The men’s final came down, once again to Westcott [with teammate Nate Holland] eking out a thrilling final, coming from behind again, making the pass on the final jump, against strong teams from Italy and Austria.
After Telluride’s first World Cup in 2010 the athletes voted it the best new venue in the world. After the second one last year, they voted it the best venue on tour, period. With no natural snow to speak of this year, Telluride nevertheless built a superb course and ran an event witnessed around the world.