Davenport nips Palmer in ultracross | AspenTimes.com
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Davenport nips Palmer in ultracross

Tim Mutrie

When Chris Davenport traveled to Squaw Valley, California last weekend to compete in the fourth annual Red Bull Ultracross, there was one competitor in particular he didn’t want to get beaten by.

But, of course, in an event like ultracross – where skiers and boarders team up in tag-team pairs to race head to head against other teams on a course resembling a gated terrain park – simply advancing to the finals precluded any personal rivalries Davenport had going in.

More than 80 teams entered the contest, and qualifying rounds culled the field to 32 for Saturday’s four-team, head-to-head single elimination racing. On Saturday, the Aspen-based professional skier and his partner, snowboarder Jason Evans of Mt. Snow, Vermont, found themselves where they wanted to be: in finals with three other teams, including Davenport’s nemesis, Shaun Palmer. Palmer, who was competing as a skier, first established himself in the arena of “snow-cross” racing as a snowboarder.

“The only person I didn’t want to get beaten by was Shaun Palmer – he’s a @#$%ing snowboarder!” Davenport said Monday. “The other guys, I wouldn’t have minded losing to. I’ve spent my whole life skiing, and I didn’t want to get beat by a snowboarder – on skis. It’s just degrading.”

In ultracross, four snowboarders compete in the first half of the race. When the first snowboarder finishes the top section, a gate opens for his skier partner to start the final half of the course, and so on, for the second, third and fourth place competitors.

In the finals, Palmer was teamed up with Xavier Delarue, the top ranked boardercross rider in the world, Davenport said.

“Evans got out in fourth place,” Davenport recalled, “and I’m watching them come down above me, thinking, `Damn! I’m going to have to reel all three of these guys in.’ But in the bottom part, where I couldn’t see them, two boarders crashed and Evans passed `em up.”

“So Shaun Palmer’s gate opens first, and then all of sudden my gate drops and I’m off chasing Palmer,” who had approximately a three-second lead, he said. “At that point, I’m thinking we’ll probably end up in second place, because realistically, I’m not reeling him in fast enough to catch him by the finish.”

Going off the very last obstacle in the course, a big-air jump, Davenport estimated he trailed Palmer by about 20 feet.

“He goes off and then I go off, and I look down and see him – Ha! – he’s lost a ski and he’s crashing into a fence right before the finish line, with all of Squaw Valley looking on,” Davenport said. “I couldn’t believe it! Normally, I tuck across the line, but I knew there wasn’t anybody close behind, so I stood up celebration-style to cross the line in first.”

With the first-place finish, Davenport and Evans collected $10,000 in prize money. Palmer, who couldn’t untangle himself from the fence, had to settle for fourth place.

“It was like the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat at all once,” the former World Extreme Skiing Champ said. “It’s one of the top three moments in my career in terms of just total, unexpected glory.”


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