Aspen’s Bleiler back on top podium at Breckenridge
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. ” Gretchen Bleiler said she’d been struggling with confidence issues in the early part of the season.
The Aspen rider fell on both run’s in last week’s U.S. Snowbaording Grand Prix finals, and slipped up and lost speed on her first run Sunday in the Winter Dew Tour superpipe finals at Breckenridge.
But in less than a minute, any doubts Bleiler had quickly evaporated.
Bleiler switched up her pipe routine and landed a stellar second run that opened with a frontside 900 and was highlighted by her signature crippler about halfway down the pipe.
The run earned her a 90.25 and, after waiting out her competitors, the first women’s Dew Tour pipe title in history.
“Honestly, I hadn’t done that run yet, and I’m just so happy that I landed it,” Bleiler said with a smile. ” … This definitely helps with the confidence. It’s early in the season and with the last couple of weeks I’ve had, this helps.”
Kelly Clark, the winner of last week’s Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, finished in second place at 86.75, and Elena Hight finished in third.
With throngs of fans lining the pipe ” in some place four or five rows deep ” on Peak 8, the six riders in the finals were greeted by the first day of sunshine all week in competition. But early in the first runs, no one took advantage of the clear sailing.
The first three riders ” Hight, Holly Crawford and Kjersti Buass ” all failed to stick runs good enough to post high scores.
Bleiler, who qualified in third place on Saturday, went fourth. After she landed a frontside 900 on her first wall, Bleiler lost her edge. Although she kept from falling, she lost most of her speed and only recorded a 71.35.
When Clark dropped into the pipe as the next rider, the competition seemed to pick up. Clark flew nearly 10 feet out of the pipe on a straight air for her first wall. She cruised effortlessly through the rest of the run and finished with an 86.75.
The top qualifier for the finals, Hannah Teter, went last and finished with a respectable 78.75, good for second place.
Kicking off the second run, Hight put together frontside and backside 900s and took over second place.
“The halfpipe is really good today but a bit slow because of the snow last night,” Hight said. “So, on my second run, I was trying to bump it up a little bit.”
Hight was pushed into third place after Bleiler took over first place. With both Clark and Teter remaining, Bleiler didn’t think there was any chance she’d end up winning.
“There were a lot of mistakes (in my run),” Bleiler said. “So, I wasn’t expecting to win, especially with how well they had been riding.”
But Clark clipped her back edge on her third hit, and Teter fell after a straight air spin on her first wall.
It all added up to a win for Bleiler.
“I think that none of us are getting exactly what we want yet,” Bleiler said. “We have a chance to go home now and rest and recharge for the next one.”
All of the riders in the finals are expected to compete in the inaugural Winter Dew Tour’s second stage in Vermont in a couple weeks.
After the win, Bleiler said switching up her run Sunday was a key to her win. Don’t expect her to stick with it for next time, though.
“The idea is to switch it up this season and work on different tricks and never really have a stock run,” she said. “It’s just more satisfying to switch it up.
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