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Lewin, David roll to skicross wins in Jeep KOM

Sweden’s Lars Lewin outdueled Daron Rahlves in men’s skicross, and France’s Ophelie David dominated the women’s skicross competition as the newly formatted Jeep King of the Mountain Series kicked off Saturday in Telluride. 
    “I had really good starts all day today, which was extremely important,” said Lewin. “This was an incredible field of athletes that rivals the X Games and Olympics, and knowing that Rahlves was on my tail there at the end was enough motivation to keep fighting for the title.”
TELLURIDE, Colo. — Sweden’s Lars Lewin outdueled Daron Rahlves in men’s skicross, and France’s Ophelie David dominated the women’s skicross competition as the newly formatted Jeep King of the Mountain Series kicked off Saturday in Telluride.  
    Held under blue skies, near perfect snow conditions and frigid 15-degree temperatures, Lewin — a two-time X Games gold medalist, U.S. Freeskiing Champion and Jeep King of the Mountain titlist  — and David — the world’s No. 1 ranked racer and 2007 X Games gold medalist — took far different paths in capturing the crown. David displayed the same brilliance in her strategy and pacing that has helped her remain unbeaten with back-to-back championships on the Jeep King of the Mountain tour. Lewin was equally as impressive, though he needed continuous strong starts throughout the day and the strength to hold off American legend Rahlves to secure the victory.
    Lewin began the day by rolling through the first round against American’s Arne Backstrom and Tanner Bardin, as well as Italy’s Luca Cattaneo. In the quarterfinals, the Swede and rival Tomas Kraus of the Czech Republic, the world’s No. 2 racer, outmaneuvered Davey Barr of Canada and Backstrom to advance to the semifinals.
    The pair once again battled head-to-head, joined by Vail’s Chris Del Bosco and Squaw Valley, Calif.’s, Errol Kerr, with Lewin and Kraus eventually landing spots in the finals. Also making it to the finals were Rahlves of Truckee, Calif., the most accomplished speed-event racer in U.S. history, and Enak Gavaggio of France, a six-time World Cup winner and X Games gold medalist. In a tightly contested race, Lewin held off a late charge by Rahlves to bring home the title. Casey Puckett, the 2007 X Games gold medalist and a four-time Olympian captured fifth place by winning the small final against Del Bosco, Kerr and Frenchman Fabre Olivier.
    “I had really good starts all day today, which was extremely important,” said Lewin. “This was an incredible field of athletes that rivals the X Games and Olympics, and knowing that Rahlves was on my tail there at the end was enough motivation to keep fighting for the title.”
    In the women’s competition, David wasted little time regaining her Jeep King of the Mountain form. She breezed through a quarterfinals field that included fellow French racers Chloe Georges and the world’s No. 3 racer, Meryll Boulangeat, as well as Canadian Gillian McFetridge. In the semifinals, she was pitted against McFetridge again, joined by Ashleigh McIvor of Canada and Sweden’s Magdalena Jonsson, ranked No. 2 in the world. David and Jonsson earned spots in the finals, where they would face Jeep King of the Mountain veterans Karin Huttary of Austria and Anik Demers-Wild of Truckee, Calif. Continuing her string of potent finishes, the French wunderkind began slow but quickly made up time and separated from the pack to earn the first title of the new season. Jenny Owens of Australia, an Olympian and four-time National Champion, won the small final over McIvor, McFetridge and Steamboat Springs, Colo.’s, Brett Buckles.
    “I was a bit worried coming into the race because I didn’t have my race face on, so to speak, but once the competition began I was able to get things going,” said David. “The course was very clean, but any mistake you made would cost you, plus the level of competition made it important to focus throughout. Things just seem to go really well for me at the Jeep King of the Mountain races.”
    On Sunday, the world’s elite snowboard racers hit the snow, including standouts Drew Neilson, Seth Wescott, Nate Holland and Shaun Palmer on the men’s side, with Lindsey Jacobellis, Dominique Maltais, Maelle Ricker and Joanie Anderson leading the charge.
    Following the races in Telluride, the Jeep King of the Mountain heads to Squaw Valley, Calif., on Feb. 8-10 before the grand finale on March 14-16 in Sun Valley, Idaho.
    Coverage of the action from Telluride will be televised to a national broadcast audience on Dec. 29, 2007 and Jan. 12, 2008 on CBS Sports.

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