The Ski Tour: Puckett nabs skiercross glory


In a riveting, slam-bang final, former U.S. Ski Teamer Paul Casey Puckett won a grinding inaugural Honda Ski Tour skiercross Saturday by surviving contact with each competitor and squeaking through the finish to hold off a hard charge by Canadian Stanley Hayer. Third place went to Swedish skiercross veteran Lars Lewen, while retired alpine star Daron Rahlves secured fourth in his skiercross debut.
    “I was in contact with everyone in the final heat,” a worn-out but grinning Puckett said. “Lars [Lewen] and I banged shoulders right out of the start. Stanley [Hayer] and I had some serious contact in the first turn and then Daron and I locked legs at the Willow turn.”
    Rahlves, who was skiing in his first skiercross since retiring from World Cup alpine competition, drew a gasp from the crowd when he spun off into the netting after he and Puckett came together. In earlier heats, Rahlves had attracted attention by his aggressive passing on what most competitors described as a tight and highly technical course chock full of testing terrain.

SUN VALLEY, Idaho — In a riveting, slam-bang final, former U.S. Ski Teamer Paul Casey Puckett won a grinding inaugural Honda Ski Tour skiercross Saturday by surviving contact with each competitor and squeaking through the finish to hold off a hard charge by Canadian Stanley Hayer. Third place went to Swedish skiercross veteran Lars Lewen, while retired alpine star Daron Rahlves secured fourth in his skiercross debut.
    “I was in contact with everyone in the final heat,” a worn-out but grinning Puckett said. “Lars [Lewen] and I banged shoulders right out of the start. Stanley [Hayer] and I had some serious contact in the first turn and then Daron and I locked legs at the Willow turn.”
    Rahlves, who was skiing in his first skiercross since retiring from World Cup alpine competition, drew a gasp from the crowd when he spun off into the netting after he and Puckett came together. In earlier heats, Rahlves had attracted attention by his aggressive passing on what most competitors described as a tight and highly technical course chock full of testing terrain.
    “My starts sucked,” Rahlves said, “so I had to be aggressive in the course. I was pleased to get to the final heat.”
    Conservatively, 3,500 spectators lined the Dollar Mountain track under cloudless skies and braved temperatures that never broke single digits.
    Tomas Kraus, a two-time FIS skiercross champion, took fifth. Ex-U.S. Ski Teamer Zach Crist, who has been instrumental in attracting an international field and in getting the tour started, finished sixth. Jake Fiala was seventh and Travis Svensrud eighth.
    Virtually every athlete had nothing but praise and respect for The Ski Tour course design, including Hayer and Lewen, who are veterans of the FIS skiercross circuit.
    “There were far more rolls and jumps on this course than I have experienced,” Hayer said. “The course is full of terrain and there are about three lines you could take. I even passed two guys on a turn.”
    Lewen echoed Hayer.
    “This may have been the best course I have ever competed on,” Lewen said. Lewen, who is 31, has been competing in FIS crosses since 2003. “It has lots of features.”
    “This was a course where you had to bang for both line and space,” Hayer added.
    The course, which started at the top of Dollar Mountain — Sun Valley’s smaller sister to Mount Baldy — had a series of rollers the competitors had to contend with right out of the start. The course followed a road into a 140-degree turn and dove into a series of five turns packed with rolls, gap jumps and large jumps. During Friday’s time trials where racers skied one by one for start position, Fiala had the fastest run, completing the course in 54.17 seconds.
    The course took its toll Friday as four racers were knocked out of the competition with injuries. Chip Knight and Hank Minor were injured in training, going down with suspected ACL tears. Shaun Palmer fell in training on the day of the race and was unable to start.
    Local Sun Valley resident Biche Rudigoz, a coach for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, fell in the quarterfinal heat, fracturing his pelvis. According to The Ski Tour doctor Kevin Stone, Rudigoz will be off skis for a few weeks, “but will be back coaching this season.”
    Puckett, who was skiing in his 10th career skiercross — he’s won six — earned $25,000 for his effort.
    “I am exhausted,” the exuberant winner said, “but this is the most fun I have had in a long time.” Puckett said he was going to compete in the X Games next and then race in three upcoming Honda Ski Tour events.
    The Ski Tour was founded by Kipp Nelson and Steve Brown, a pair of former University of Colorado alpine racers. Nelson, a trustee of the U.S. Ski Team as well as the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, wants to put the fun back in competition by involving the community.
    The tour will stage four events featuring skiercross and pipe athletes competing for $500,000 total purse. After Sun Valley, the tour moves to Breckenridge, Colorado, then Aspen, with the finals in Squaw Valley.
    The Ski Tour is the first major event to be held in Sun Valley since the resort hosted an alpine World Cup in 1976. When founded, Sun Valley was a hotbed of alpine racing, regularly hosting the Harriman Cup, named after the resort’s founder, Averill Harriman.


The Honda Ski Tour skiercross final results
Jan. 13, 2007 — Sun Valley, Idaho

1ST PLACE    Casey Puckett – USA
2ND PLACE    Stanley Hayer – CZE
3RD PLACE    Lars Lewen – SWE
4TH PLACE    Daron Rahlves – USA
5TH PLACE    Tomas Kraus – CZE
6TH PLACE    Zach Crist – USA
7TH PLACE    Jake Fiala – USA
8TH PLACE    Travis Svensrud – USA

FINAL
SEED    NAME
SF1/SF2 -1ST    Casey Puckett – USA
SF1/SF2 -1ST    Lars Lewen – SWE
SF1/SF2-2ND    Stanley Hayer – CZE
SF1/SF2 – 2ND    Daron Rahlves – USA
   
CONSOLATION
SEED    NAME
SF1/SF2 – 3RD    Jake Fiala – USA
SF/1SF2 – 3RD    Zach Crist – USA
SF1/SF2 – 4TH    Travis Svensrud – USA
SF1/SF2 – 4TH    Tomas Kraus – CZE

SEMIFINAL 1
NAME
Casey Pucket – USA
Tomas Kraus – CZE
Jake Fiala – USA
Stanley Hayer – CZE

Round 1A
NAME
Jake Fiala – USA
Jean Rudigoz – USA
Eric Archer – USA
Tomas Kraus – CZE

Round 1B
NAME
Stanley Hayer – CZE
Casey Puckett – USA
Davey Barr – CAN
Chris DelBosco – USA

Round 1C
NAME
Travis Svensrud – USA
Zach Crist – USA
Cody Smith – USA
Christian Questad – USA

Round 1D />NAME
Enak Gavaggio – FRA
Daron Rahlves – USA
Lars Lewen – SWE
Justin Glick – USA

PAUL MITCHELL    
DARK HORSE 
  
RESULT    NAME
15    Justin Glick – USA
17    Jamey Parks – USA
19    Rick Greener – USA
21    Griffin Post- USA
   
RESULT    NAME
16    Carl Rixon – USA
18    Clic Bloomfield – USA
20    Matt Murphy – USA
22    Tomas Kraus – CZE

SEMIFINAL 2
NAME
Travis Svensrud – USA
Lars Lewen – SWE
Zach Crist – USA
Daron Rahlves – USA


The Honda Ski Tour — 2007 schedule
Sun Valley, Idaho
Jan. 11-14
 
Breckenridge, Colorado
Feb. 1-4
 
Aspen/Snowmass, Colorado
Feb. 22-25
 
Squaw Valley, California
Tour Finals
March 8-11
   

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