Klug confident after strong showing in Vermont | AspenTimes.com

Klug confident after strong showing in Vermont

Aspen's Chris Klug finished fifth in a Race to the Cup parallel giant slalom in Vermont Tuesday. (Aspen Times file)

After spending nearly a week competing on the East Coast, snowboarder Chris Klug said he saw the sun for the first time Tuesday.

Inclement weather and inconsistent results in Le Relais, Quebec, clouded Klug’s weekend. But the blue skies over Okemo Mountain in Vermont brightened his disposition. A fifth-place finish in a Race to the Cup parallel giant slalom also supplied a much-needed boost.

“This trip was a great success, as far as I’m concerned,” Klug said. “It was a beautiful, nice sunny day and there were great conditions. As far as points go, it doesn’t have a lot of meaning, but for my training, the best environment is to be racing.”

Klug’s 16th- and 33rd-place finishes in two races in Le Relais raised concerns, he said. For the second time in a young season ” just two months old ” Klug missed an opportunity to make a statement in an Olympic qualifier. A stronger finish would have helped ensure a trip to his third Winter Games. Klug fell during his run in Soelden, Austria, in the season’s first qualifier on Oct. 16.

Although his performance in Vermont would not define or drastically alter his success this season, Klug said he was poised to make Tuesday’s race count.

“My goal was to treat this like a World Cup event,” Klug said. “My coach told me to go down there and have two fast qualifying runs and try and win them.”

That is just what Klug did. On the same hill where he won the giant slalom in 2000’s U.S. Nationals, Klug won both qualifiers in resounding fashion, earning himself the top seed heading into the final round. In his first head-to-head matchup, against fellow U.S. snowboarder Jeff Greenwood, Klug advanced to the quarterfinals.

It was there he made one crucial stumble. Klug built a sizable lead on his competitor through the first of two runs, but looped out near the bottom of the course in the deciding race.

“It’s a little disappointing,” Klug said. “I’m a competitor, and I’m there to win. This [result] does prove that I’m riding well.”

After a weekend full of regret and angst, Klug is confident. His mind is clear. Klug is planning to fly home today after a trip to Burlington, Vt., to meet with sponsor Burton to design a backup board for his upcoming trip to Europe.

For nine days, he will relax with family. He will strap on the freestyle board for some early-morning runs, then he will spend one to two days after Christmas training on his racing board.

Klug, who won back-to-back Race to the Cup parallel giant slaloms at Copper Mountain in November, is hoping to sustain some semblance of the momentum he regained in Vermont. The season begins a crucial stretch once the calendar year changes.

Looming are the final two Olympic qualifiers ” Jan. 8 in Kreichberg, Austria, and Jan. 15 in Olang, Italy. Klug finished fourth in Olang in 2004.

After 15 years on the circuit, Klug has learned how to maintain his optimism and take everything in stride.

“I’ve been in this situation before. I’ve been through qualifications that have come right down to the 11th hour,” Klug said. “It’d be easy to panic and say, ‘My God, if I don’t get a couple top-10s, I’m not going to the Olympics.’ But I have two more solid chances.

“I wouldn’t bet against me.”

Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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