Chris Klug wins PGS at Copper Mt. |

Chris Klug wins PGS at Copper Mt.

A 6:30 a.m. start may have slowed some, but not Olympic bronze medalist Chris Klug of Aspen or U.S. team youngster Michelle Gorgone of Sudbury, Mass., who outlasted an international field of 90 riders to win the first Continental Cup parallel giant slalom of the season Thursday at Copper Mountain.

“It wasn’t the first time I’ve rode up the lift in the dark and I’m sure it won’t be the last,” said Klug, who suffered 20 stitches to his chin after tumbling over the start gates in Soelden, Austria.

“It was a full starry morning, which gave way to sunshine and epic snow conditions. The wind could have toned it down a bit, but I’m just happy to put a win up there after a slow start to the season.”

Swede Richard Richardsson, the Olympic silver medalist from the 2002 Winter Games, was second, followed by Adam Smith of Tangent, Ore.

Aprilia Hagglof of Sweden and Lisa Kosglow of Boulder went 2-3 for the women.

“The Swedes helped raise the bar a bit,” Klug said, “and to race the Olympic silver medalist in the final and win was huge.

“But what’s really great is all the young riders out here ” there’s kids from the East Coast, the West Coast and everything in between. Alpine racing is gaining some steam again in the U.S. and it’s awesome to see that.”

For the 21-year-old Gorgone, it was the first major win of her career, a title she’s particularly proud of because of the tough international field that included the Swedes, who have been training with the U.S. team all week, and nearly the entire Canadian national team.

Head coach Nick Smith thanked the staff of Copper Mountain for assisting in making the event possible. “Of the three runs open here, we’re taking up one of them and the snow has been excellent all week. Copper really pulled some strings for us and came through huge. Everybody is in good spirits and riding strong, and I look for that to continue after Thanksgiving.”

The Continental Cup continues Friday a parallel slalom race, again starting at 6:30 a.m. The U.S. team will then have a week off before the World Cup starts up again in Tandadalen, Sweden.

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