What can I say, my head is still swirling but the realization that I just won a FIS Snowboard Cross World Cup, well that really hasn’t hit home yet.
After the Montafon World Cup I knew that I was close to making a World Cup Final, it really encouraged me that I could compete with the more experienced guys on the tour – I was hungry.
In Montafon I really got inspiration from US Rider, Nick Baumgartner, he actually sat down with me and my dad to give me some advice – the key message was all the riders know you are good enough make a final and get on the World Cup Podium soon – but keep your head about you and just focus, be yourself but have FUN. Nick is the sort of guy who goofs around and is really loud, but he knows his stuff and I really respect him and appreciate him taking the time to give me some advice and encouragement. He might be regretting it now as I beat him over the line in the semi final to get into the Final at Lake Louise.
Leading up to the Lake Louise World Cup I spent a week at the Tudhope's House in Salt Lake City which is the 'Half Way House for Lost and Lonely Snowboarders'. My knee had flared up in Montafon so I just wanted to take it easy. I had a day riding with the Team Utah Boardercross crew at Canyons, but other than that I just hung out with my dad.
We made the trip from Salt Lake to Calgary and then the drive to Lake Louise, I didn’t know what to expect but when you drive up to Lake Louise it is incredible, even more incredible was the accommodation that had been booked by the event organisers – The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is without a doubt the most majestic hotel I have ever stayed in. It is an easy drive to the Lake Louise Ski Resort but well worth it. The view from the room I shared with my teamate Mick Dierdorff was panoramic the room itself was amazing!
|Lake Louise Resort|
The next morning we awoke to fresh 10cm of POW – no race boards/no friends just POW! Seth Wescott brought out the Burton Family Tree Swallowtail and everyone was just stoked to mix up the POW with some training.
The next day was training day and our first chance to get a look at the course. This was the first time that Lake Louise Resort had hosted a Boardercross World Cup so everyone was not sure what to expect, but when you get Nick Roma and Johnny Balfour on the job you know they are gonna do their best for the riders with the terrain they are given. Most World Cup courses are built for six racers on course, which is the Olympic Format, but this course was built for four on the course. They delivered!
On training day we got to run the course at speed and you got the feeling that the course was fast tight, technical and that there would not be a lot of opportunity for passing – so you were going to need to be quick if you wanted to make it through qualification and do well in the brackets.
I was the 31st starter in the time trial and on my first run qualified in 7th place, in Boardercross with four on the course the top 16 riders after the first run don’t need to do a second run so my job was done for the day – except that my team mates were still running so I wanted to cheer them on. Mick Dierdorff from the US qualified in his second run in 18th position so we were both through and we wanted to see how Jenna Feldman and Torah Bright went. Torah has started BX this season with the goal of qualifying in three disciplines at the Sochi Olympics, Half Pipe, Slopestyle and Boardercross and Jenna is trying to qualify for the US Team. It is tough for the girls as with 4 on a course only the top 16 ladies qualify into the brackets. Torah and Jenna just missed qualification with Jenna finishing in 31st and Torah finishing in 23rd.
To get me in the right frame of mind for racing Torah gave me the Champion dance!
With a good time trial under my belt I felt great until I got the bracket draw. My first bracket was up against two of the all time greatest Snowboardcross athletes, Australian World Chumpian Alex Pullin and Frenchman Pierre Vaultier, between them they have nearly 100 World Cup starts, 20 World Cup Podiums and 19 World Cup wins oh yeah and two World Championships. This was my 8th World Cup Start!!
In the first heat I was the fastest qualifier so I had 1st gate choice so I took gate 3 (middle right). Out of the gates I was positioned well and knew I had to be patient and look for the right opportunity to get into a good position, I was in 3rd sitting in the draft and saw the opportunity to go inside both Chumpy and Pierre, as I did this Chumpy clipped Pierre and they were out – I was in front and won the heat! Pierre got the worst of the crash being taken down the mountain in the banana boat but Chumpy the Champion he is walked it off down the course – later that night I found out both were OK with no major injuries.
The first Round with Chumpy and Pierre in mid air - ouch!
Things happen so fast in the brackets, after the race you get shoved in front of the TV camera to get your head on TV with the result and then you get dragged to a Skidoo to get taken back up as quickly as possible for the next heat.
Back to the top I had time to talk to my coaches Jon Casson and Cody Brown as well as a quick discussion with the Waxing Bear, Jeff Sadis to make a choice about what board/wax combo was working. The Bear had it dialed so there was not a lot of discussion.
Into the round of 16 athletes and you just get into the gates, I had the Green bib on which meant I was the second fastest from qualification. Schad, Leoni and Cheever. Out of the gates I got a good start – note to Nick Roma – your Wootang is awesome! By the time I got to the bottom I had finished in 2nd place and into the semi finals. At the bottom of the course I had my support team of Ben Bright, Torah Bright, my dad on the radio, Mick Dierdorff and Jenna Feldman. Now without putting too fine a point on it but one of Torah’s Roxy Team Mates is surfer Sally Fitzgibbons who I have named one of my Kesslers after. So Torah organized an encouragement message from Sally on the phone in the finish area– needless to Sally said gave me plenty of motivation to do well ☺
Torah giving me my motivating message from Sally Fitzgibbons!!
The Semi Final
Semi final time and I knew this was gonna be tough, in my seven World Cup starts I have been in three semi finals but never through to the final – I was feeling good. Baumgartner was in the semi with Schad, and Douschan. It was a blur but as we came towards the finish I was in 2nd but I could feel Baumgartner breathing over my neck – holy crap! He was sitting in my draft just waiting to get me over the line. I hit the last feature worked it for as much speed as possible and BAM I had just qualified for my first FINAL!
The semi was a blur but in the final everything slowed down, out of the gates I was in 2nd, a bit of contact with Konsti reminded me to sit patiently to wait for the opportunity and in turn 6 I saw the opportunity and I took the low line inside Konsti, over the next feature and I was in front, I kept working every feature pumping for speed over the last roller and I WON – My first World Cup Podium – a FIS Snowboard World Cup Gold Medal! It wasn’t a surprise that the first person to greet and congratulate me was Dual Olympic Gold Medallist Seth Wescott, - this guy is a legend and then Nick Baumgartner who just said ‘that’s the way you do it! With a clip over the ear for good measure! After this I got embraced by our team, Torah, Ben Bright, Jenna Feldman, Mick Dierdorff and my Dad with my mum on the phone – "Mum I just won my first World Cup" after this, things went crazy. I was waiting for my coach Jon Casson who has been with me through everything over the last 3 - 4 years, interviews slaps on the back and finally Jon finally got down with Cody and it was pretty emotional for all of us, there is a belief amongst our team that we have something good that is working the means good things are gonna happen, it was just gonna take time.
|My Coach Jon Casson with Nick Roma in the background|
Team Utah Boardercross - from Left Cody Brown, Jenna Feldman, Torah Bright, (Lauren Eagle), Me, Mick Dierdorff and Jon Casson
Being led onto the podium by the Big Chief in his traditional headset was memorable, but having my name called out as the WINNER of the Lake Louise FIS Snowboard World Cup is imprinted in my head forever! Somehow I got the Yellow jersey for World Cup Tour Leader, which is pretty amazing (but I will take it)
I want to thank everyone involved in the event, Tim and his team from Canada Snowboard who always put on a great World Cup Boardercross event, The Lake Louise Resort for committing to host the event, the event sponsors, Sport Check (you make great Trucker Caps), Mazda, the course design and build Team, Jeff Ihaksi, Nick Roma and Johnny Balfour and all of the volunteers who gave up their time on the course over 3 days!
It takes a great team to get a good result and I am extremely lucky to have the support of Jon Casson and Cody Brown from Team Utah Boardercross, my waxing bear Jess Sadis who is funded by NSWIS, My team mates Mick Dierdorff, Jenna Feldman and Torah Bright – you guys are awesome, spiritual advisor Ben Bright and my Manager (Dad) who sorts everything out so I just focus on racing.
This season I am based out of Salt Lake City with the Team Utah Snowboardcross Team but for the last 3-4 years Steamboat and the Winter Sports Club has been my winter home, they welcomed me into their town, community and homes (thanks Bannings and Rudolphs) and I feel incredibly humbled to be part of this incredible environment.
|Seth Westcott and I after the Race - what a legend!|
|To the Victor goes the spoils :-)|
|Markus Schairer telling me "Yellow is my colour don't get used to it"|
|Baumgartner after the race "So I didn't really think you would actually listen to me"|
|My team mate and buddy Mick Dierdorff|
|My Dad and Manager|
|From Left Ben Bright, Jon Casson, Mick Dierdorff, Cody Brown, Jeff Sadis, (Lauren Eagle), Torah Bright|
|Me, Jon Casson and Cody Brown|
|Dominique Maltais and me - World Cup Leaders!|
|The waxing bear, waxing lyrical!|
If you want to watch the race you can watch it here!
Special thanks to my sponsors
MUM and DAD