Puckett scores skiercross victory | AspenTimes.com

Puckett scores skiercross victory

Nate Peterson

Local Casey Puckett celebrates on the podium Saturday after winning the inaugural Honda Ski Tour skiercross at Sun Valley, Idaho.

Aspen, CO ColoradoSUN VALLEY, Idaho As far as debuts go, this one was hard to forget.Local Casey Puckett won the Honda Ski Tours inaugural skiercross Saturday at Sun Valley, Idaho, in a wild final heat that featured a collision and a photo finish.It was unbelievable, said Puckett, a four-time Olympian who won the Winter X Games skiercross three years ago. The year that I won the X Games, that was pretty intense, but this was easily just as intense, if not even more. It was just wild.And thrilling to watch, judging by the estimated 6,000 spectators who braved subzero temperatures to take in the four-racer final.Puckett jostled with defending Winter X Games champion Lars Lewen at the start to claim the lead, then nearly lost it after Daron Rahlves slammed into him around a turn before a section of rollers. He was right behind me, and he pretty much just landed on me and nearly took me out, Puckett said. Luckily, Puckett said, Rahlves took himself out while he managed to stay upright.The impact caused Puckett to scrub some speed, however, which opened the door for Stanley Hayer. The Czech racer stayed on Pucketts tail but was unable to find an opening to pass and was just a few feet behind at the finish.He had a little more momentum than I did, so I blocked him out a little bit, Puckett said. It was just a drag race to the finish line.The win netted Puckett $25,000 and a spot for his name on the new Harriman Cup, modeled after the storied original trophy that bears the names of local skiing legends Dick Durrance and Friedl Pfeifer. According to Wikipedia, the Harriman Cup races were the first major international ski competitions in North America, dating back to 1937. Durrances name is engraved on the cup three times.It was the big U.S. race before the World Cup even existed, Puckett said. Its similar to the Roche Cup This is a rebirth.The same point could be made about the new tour, which stops Feb. 22-25 at Snowmass . Founded by former University of Colorado alpine racers Kipp Nelson and Steve Brown, the tours vision is to put the fun back into ski competition.There are halfpipe and skiercross competitions at each stop, as well as concerts and parties. Puckett is optimistic that the tour will catch on with spectators, judging by the response from Sun Valley locals.The energy in town was fantastic, Puckett said. I hope that it will continue with that kind of energy level. I know that theyve put together such an amazing team to produce this event. Im just hoping Aspen can get fired up for it.The easiest selling point is the field of competitors, which includes Winter X Games stars Tanner Hall and Simon Dumont, among other recognizable names.Rahlves decision to race on the tour just one year removed from World Cup and Olympic competition gives it instant credibility, Puckett said.I said in the press conference that I was honored to be racing with Daron, Puckett said. Its awesome that hes willing to come out and race this. I knew he would love it. I think its really good for the sport.The International Olympic Committee recently added skiercross for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, and just this month the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association agreed to sanction the tours skiercross events.There will also be television coverage of the tour on ABC; this past weekends events will air at 5 p.m. Saturday. They put helmet cams on us, so I think the TV show is going to be pretty exciting, Puckett said.Next up for Puckett is Winter X Games 11 later this month at Buttermiilk, where hell try to improve on his sixth-place finish last year. The next Ski Tour stop is Feb. 1-4 at Breckenridge.Nate Petersons e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes.com

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