Dew Tour: Vito advances out of prelims – just barely |

Dew Tour: Vito advances out of prelims – just barely

Bryce Evans
summit daily new

BRECKENRIDGE – Louie Vito doesn’t like qualifiers, he doesn’t like preliminary rounds, and he doesn’t like going into any run without unleashing his biggest tricks.

“I’d rather just go to finals and just do my run and show what I’ve got, then figure it out from there,” he said. “In qualifiers you can do harder runs but you need to know when to hold, when to fold. These qualifiers are just a little tougher for me.”

Vito was caught in between during Friday’s preliminary round of the men’s snowboard superpipe at the Winter Dew Tour’s Nike 6.0 Open at Breckenridge Ski Resort. After a monster first run – with lots of amplitude and some of the biggest tricks of the day – Vito wiped out on his final hit. Needing a clean second run in order to advance to today’s finals, Vito opted for the safer approach – and the judges killed him for it.

He was stuck in the 10th and final qualifying spot, literally sweating it out to the point he discarded his jacket, hat and gloves and paced the bottom of the pipe as nine riders had a chance to pass him over.

They didn’t – in part due to some eyebrow-raising scoring – and Vito, last weekend’s Grand Prix winner, was on to the finals.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been on the bubble like that, and it sucks, especially when it’s your homies coming down with good runs after you,” he said. “You never want to have ill thoughts toward them, because some days it’s their day and somedays it’s yours.”

Well, the day really belonged to Vito’s Vancouver Olympic teammate Greg Bretz. The 19-year-old from Mammoth Lakes, Calif., led the 25-rider prelim, notching the two highest scores of the day and finishing with a 94.5.

Bretz, who put together a high-flying run that included a double cork 1080 and a cab-1080, wasn’t too worried about the give-and-take scenario of playing it safe in the qualifier. Actually, he wasn’t worried about much at all.

“I’ve been doing it for so long that I just kind of trust my body to do it,” he said. “I just try to shut my brain down during my run so I can go out there and ride to my full potential.”

A full nine points behind Bretz was Scotty Lago in second place. Lago rode under the guest announcing of his buddy Kevin Pearce – the former pro rider whose head injury last season sent shock waves through the sport – and put together a smooth run. He was given an 85.5 and since he had the snowboard slopestyle prelims about an hour-and-a-half later, he opted not to take a second run.

Ikka-Eemeli Laari was third, Luke Mitrani was fourth and Japan’s Kazuhiro Kokubo was fifth.

For the first time in the event’s three year history, Breck’s Winter Dew Tour snowboard superpipe final will not feature born-and-bred rider Zack Black.

And the fact the Summit native’s first run wasn’t good enough to help him advance had quite a few in the audience scratching their beanies. Black put together a clean trip down the pipe, linking a backside 720 with a switch, backside 720 in the middle section. He received only 42.5 points for it, more than 10 points out of qualifying position.

He stepped up his second run, and if he hadn’t had a small slip-out on his final hit likely would have moved on.

“I was pretty bummed. They’re judging hard today,” he said. “I definitely had mistakes, and they were calling out little mistakes. It was some hard judging – for everyone.”

And Black’s lifelong riding buddy, Brett Esser, didn’t have any more luck. Esser, a senior at Summit High, injured his ankle when he decked out on a hit in open qualifier – which he won. He re-tweaked the injury in Thursday’s slopestyle open qualifiers, and by the time Friday’s prelims rolled around, he wasn’t exactly full strength.

“I didn’t take any practice runs because I couldn’t, and spinning was pretty much impossible for me,” he said.

He fell on both runs but landed a soaring 1080 on Run 2.

Both riders were content with simply being able to compete on their home hill.

“It was amazing. … I’m so excited to have this pipe for the rest of the year, and all these people can leave,” Black said with a laugh. “Not the guests, but the other athletes.”

Although two local riders failed to advance in the prelims, there will be to Breck pipe veterans dropping in last in today’s finals.

Both JJ Thomas and Steve Fisher were exempt through all qualifying rounds due to their overall finishes in last season’s Dew Tour. (Thomas was first overall, and Fisher was second.)

They’ll both take on a heavy-hitting field.

Vito will drop in first, as the heat runs in reverse qualifying order.

Steamboat Springs’ Matt Ladley will be next, followed by Trevor Jacob, Mason Aguirre and Christian Haller.

The top-five qualifiers from prelims will then drop in, with Fisher then Thomas finishing it off.

And with Breck’s long, slick pipe, Thomas said Friday – while watching the competition – that riders are getting at least two extra hits at Breck compared to other pipes. It should be an exciting final, he said.

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