Despite carnage, Klug ready for the X Games
Aspen Times Staff Writer
The last time Chris Klug raced a boardercross, some five years ago at the U.S. Open, the experience forcibly imprinted upon him a desire to never do another one again.
“I really carnaged hard,” he said.
But last year, watching the seventh ESPN Winter X Games at Buttermilk from the sidelines, Klug began to reconsider. Further greasing the wheels of thought, it had been recently announced that boardercross ” once positioned as the anti-racer’s race ” would become an Olympic sport in 2006 in Italy.
“I was kind of kicking myself for not doing it,” he recalled. “It looked like something I could’ve been successful with.”
Klug, 31, America’s most decorated alpine snowboard racer, has stood on podiums in at least three continents over a 12-year span following the World Cup tour. And in February 2002, 19 months after undergoing a liver transplant, he became a global media darling after winning the bronze medal in parallel giant slalom at the Salt Lake City Winter Games.
But Klug, who lives at North 40, has never raced in the X Games.
On Friday, for the qualifying day of the men’s and women’s boardercross, that will change. And barring avalanche, earthquake or the like, you can expect to see Klug in the head-to-head elimination rounds on Saturday.
Still, he has left himself an out, saying if the course is too “gnarly” or dangerous, he may withdraw. Just don’t bet on it.
“I’m signed up for it and I’m doing it as long as I’m comfortable with the jumps and the course, and I have confidence that I’m not going to kill myself. If that’s the case, I think I can do really well.
“But my goal is really to have fun and gain some experience, perhaps for the Olympics,” he continued. “My ultimate goal is to get back to the Olympics for [alpine] racing and hopefully upgrade to a different colored medal, but obviously it would be awesome if I could compete in two events.”
This week, Klug has been training on Strawpile on Aspen Mountain with U.S. Snowboard Team coaches as well as some of the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club’s top riders. The goal there, he said, is to dial in his alpine riding ” typically parallel giant slalom and slalom on the World Cup tour.
“On the World Cup I’m not riding as well as I’d like right now, so I decided to have this little camp to try to get back on track. In France [earlier this month], I made some mistakes and didn’t ride quite like myself and ended up off the pace a little bit. So I’m anxious to turn it around and have a good, fast February. I know I can be on the podium and that’s my goal when I return to Europe.”
Klug’s calender includes a Feb. 3 World Cup in Slovenia and a Feb. 8 World Cup in Germany. In the meantime, he’s working to finish an autobiography, along with writer Steve Jackson, that must be submitted to the publisher by the end of February. The book, chronicling Klug’s remarkable ride on and off the snow, is slated for release in October.
Like many of the other X Games boardercross competitors, Klug will be covered head to toe in body armor this weekend. Depending on the course layout, he’ll probably swap out his normal alpine-style setup, with hard boots, for a freestyle rig with soft boots for the boardercross race.
“Right now, I’m fired up for it. I’m not too worried about it, but I’m a little nervous that I don’t wreck myself for the rest of the season.”
It’s a concern shared by his rivals, as well, as boardercross is often referred to as “lucky-cross” or “carnage-cross” for the numbers of highlight-reel crashes and near misses endured by even the best riders.
“I’m gonna go for it, but we’ll see. I’ll have to make sure I do a little yoga beforehand, just in case, to make sure I’m fully limbered up.”
[Tim Mutrie’s e-mail address is email@example.com]
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American riders invited to compete in X Games from Jan. 29-31, who have continuously tested negative while in mandatory quarantine in Austria, are expected to compete at the event later this month in Aspen.