Gorgone, Huet ride like the wind
BRECKENRIDGE – “Oh, what a blustery day.”The bear-wise words of Winnie the Pooh were a weather summary for Breckenridge on Monday during the Chevrolet U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix parallel giant slalom. The clouds zooming above Peak 9 appeared to be moving faster than the competitors on Sundown, but the wind generally blew down the face of the run at the racers’ backs.U.S. Snowboard Team stalwart Michelle Gorgone of Boston and Frenchman Nicolas Huet emerged as champions, and the Grand Prix wrapped up a weekend full of action on a day as chilly as they get.Gorgone showcased her powerful technique from the start by winning the qualifiers among the field of 39 women, and by placing high in all 10 runs she took on the day. Boulder resident Lisa Kosglow took second and Austria’s Claudia Riegler podiumed as well.Gorgone took home $10,000 for her win.
“Oh, I’m so excited. I’ve never won this much money, and it’s great to win such a big race in the U.S.,” Gorgone said. “The course was so rough. You just do everything you can to get to the bottom and make less mistakes than your opponent. So, there was definitely a lot of pressure, came down to the line, but it worked out.”Huet had to claw his way past a field of 66 men and a slew of close calls until he reached the finals against Switzerland’s Urs Eiselin. Huet and Eiselin’s European duel came at the end of the day, as the coldest winds blew. Eiselin, winner of the qualifiers, put up gutsy runs, but a few mistakes and two rock-star runs by Huet knocked him out of the gold spot. Canada’s Jasey Jay Anderson placed third.For Huet, the win (and the $10,000 check) came at the end of a whirlwind week.”It was a long trip from France. Friday night, we had the World Cup final in Austria – there I finished second. Then we had to fly on Saturday, we had King of the Mountain in Snowbird on Sunday, we had to fly here on Sunday afternoon and then the race today. It was tough,” said Huet. “Now, I get to see my Christmas tree in France and take it easy for a week.”Huet defeated American Peter Thorndike in the semifinals, while Eiselin made short work of Anderson.”It was a tough day for a race. It’s pretty cold here and, actually, when I came to Breckenridge, I knew it was a nice resort, but I didn’t know it was so high – like 10,000 feet – and you get really tired when you make your race so high,” Huet said. “The snow was really aggressive, and the snow is very dry in the United States. It was putting us on the edge, and it was really hard to get out of the turn. It was tough.”
Eiselin’s mistakes early in the final run gave Huet a two-and-a-half-gate advantage which grew to three by the finish.”The point is to not have a mistakes. That’s exactly the point,” said Huet.In the first run of the women’s final, Kosglow took an early lead over Gorgone thanks to some mistakes on Gorgone’s part. Nonetheless, when it came down to it, Kosglow’s smooth riding still wasn’t enough to hold off the ultra-speedy Gorgone.”I came in with some low confidence, so this definitely helps,” Kosglow said. “I felt like I had hard rounds today. Tomoka (Takeuchi) and Claudia are both World Cup racers. So I already had both those girls today – which was a good confidence boosting for me – and Michelle’s an awesome rider, so I’m psyched. I like to win, but it’s all about having fun.”The second run of the women’s final turned out opposite of the first, as Kosglow lost her edge early, nearly falling off the course. Kosglow rode with a vengeance, charging Gorgone and catching her only to catch another edge and fall two-thirds of the way through the course.
Gorgone fell to the snow, threw her hands to her head and screamed for joy after crossing the finish line. Then when Kosglow made it down, Gorgone bounded up with hugs and smiles.”I felt really solid today,” said Gorgone. “I just try and be really laid back – not think about what’s going on too much. I just try to have fun and talk about anything besides what I’m about to do because getting nervous is my only frustration.”Silverthorne native and U.S. Snowboard Teamer Justin Reiter, who now lives and trains in Steamboat, placed 10th in the qualifiers with a combined time of 1:03.75. Reiter reached the second round of 16, but failed to advance to the quarterfinals.Edwards’ Stacia Hookom also had a noteworthy day, placing fourth. Hookom had a legitimate shot at ousting Gorgone in the semifinals. Gorgone took the first run by a mere 0.02 seconds. But, Hookom sailed off of the red course one third of the way down their second and final run.Aspen’s Chris Klug also suffered minor disappointment on the day by riding off course. Klug reached the men’s quarterfinals, but missed a few gates in a race he was winning at the time.The U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix continues in Mt. Bachelor, Ore., Jan. 7-9.
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