Goliaths rule Swatch race
In an event like boardercross, with its dips, jumps, banked turns and frantic head-to-head format, it might seem that success favors bravado and balls over technical skill and experience.
The Swatch Boardercross World Tour 2001 event at Buttermilk Mountain dispelled that notion Friday and Saturday. Seasoned professional riders ruled the event and not one David stood among the Goliaths when the men’s and women’s brackets narrowed more than 100 riders to just six finalists Saturday.
All six men in the finals owned one of the top six times from Friday’s time trials, and each one advanced through the brackets with relative ease.
Frenchman Philippe Conte, a 27-year-old who now aligns himself with Switzerland, laid down the fastest time-trial time Friday and followed it up with a decisive win in the finals Saturday over Canadian Drew Neilson. With the win, Conte was awarded $25,000 of the event’s $100,000 purse.
Conte’s identical twin brother, Nicolas, took third, followed by Seth Westcott of Sugarloaf, Maine, Austrian Harold Putz and Swiss rider Bertrand Denervaud.
“I chose the right board, the right wax. That was the main stuff today,” Philippe Conte said after the win. “I was expecting to do good today, but maybe not first place because we have so many good riders. But in the final I got this good start and I was very confident from there. I knew my line and there was no catching me.”
Aspen Valley Ski/Snowboard Club (AVSC) rider Erin Simmons led the charge for locals in the event with a fourth in the women’s division. Simmons, a 24-year-old from Vancouver, British Columbia, who aspires to make the Canadian national team, posted the fifth-fastest time-trial result Friday. In the finals, joined by three other riders with top-six time-trial finishes, Simmons was edged by some faces familiar to Boardercross podiums.
Norway’s Line Oestvold overtook rival Catherine “Ine” Poetzl of Austria about halfway down the course in Saturday’s final and hung on for a rewarding victory (and a $12,500 check). Canadian Maelle Ricker, racing her first boardercross since an injury abruptly ended her season early last year, passed Poetzl on the landing of the final jump to take second place ahead of Poetzl.
“I didn’t feel like winning but I wanted too,” Oestvold said after the finals. “I guess the wish was stronger than the feeling.
“I’ve been fighting with Ine all this year,” the 22-year-old Norwegian continued. “She won two World Cups, and I was second in both, so I was eager to get her. My confidence is the most important thing about the victory.”
Simmons, who took sixth in the Vans Triple Crown boardercross at Breckenridge in December, was swarmed by hoards of young autograph hunters after the finals.
“Look at these kids,” Simmons managed. “They’re all like, `Erin! Erin!’ It’s exciting.
“I was so comfortable today,” she continued. “In the final, we had a little collision at the top but I snuck by and flew over this jump and passed a girl and wound up fourth. I’m happy with that. Very happy.”
Fellow AVSC rider Cooper Hall, an up-and-coming 18-year-old who was invited to the X Games in Vermont next month, advanced to the quarterfinals and finished 21st overall. AVSC rider Jason Smith missed advancing to the quarterfinals by a nose and finished 27th. Snowmass Village rider Travis McLain managed 42nd place, a gutsy feat considerable he’s nursing a right knee that has been operated on three times in less than a year.
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Bluebird skies, spring-like temperatures and a few inches of snow from Monday night’s storm helped Snowmass skiers and snowboarders cruise into the season Wednesday for opening day.