Races wrap up; Rothrock top for U.S.
LOVELAND – Tom Rothrock got a real view of what the world looks like from the podium this weekend.
The 2002 Nature Valley Alpine Cup wrapped up Sunday with the final men’s slalom race, and Rothrock, who took second in Saturday’s race with his best result ever against a World Cup field, finished third Sunday behind Italians Giancarlo Bergamelli and Giorgio Rocca.
Bergamelli won the race with a two-run combined time of 1 minute, 40.92 seconds, and Rocca finished in 1:41.55. Rothrock was leading at the split and nearly fell before crossing the finish line. He bobbled on one ski around one of the final gates but still finished in 1:41.58.
“I actually almost went down four or five times,” Rothrock said after the race. “The second run wasn’t my type of course at all. Fighting the ruts was really tough for me the whole way down.”
Nonetheless, Rothrock was pleased with his performances throughout the weekend and said they will poise him for a great start on the World Cup circuit this season.
“These races really set me up for the year, as far as world ranking goes,” he said. “Last year, I was seventh and eighth, the year before, I was 15th … so, I keep moving up. It’s good to be on the podium. It feels great. From now on, I can just go for it.”
U.S. Team skier Chip Knight and and about 40 other racers DNFed during the first run Sunday. Several others crashed in the second run, or came close to crashing.
Former Alpine Cup champion Erik Schlopy let the podium elude him again in Sunday’s race but managed to stay on his feet. The U.S. Team veteran also struggled with inconsistencies in the course. However, unlike Saturday’s performance where he went end-over-end in the second run, Schlopy recovered from a couple of near-crashes in his second run Sunday and took 10th overall. He said he is looking forward to further races at lower altitude.
“Making recoveries is tiring,” he said. “I’ve been exhausted both days. The good news is, these are the highest races we have. Today wasn’t that great, but I feel confident. A couple more days of training and we’ll be there.”
Fellow teammate Jake Zamansky finished right behind Schlopy in 11th place and said he wasn’t as troubled by the course as some of the other racers.
“The snow is hard – Loveland did a good job of prepping the hill,” he said. “These are exciting races. I’m excited for the season – we’ll see what happens in Park City.”
Zamansky and several others on the U.S. Team will head to Park City, Utah this weekend for America’s debut World Cup races for the 2002-03 season.
The U.S. Team will compete without its long-time member, Casey Puckett, who retired last year and is working full time as a coach for the youth team in his hometown of Aspen. Puckett finished 19th Sunday and said the race might have been his very last against a World Cup field.
“This is the only (race) I’ll do this season because I have Nor Am points from (last) year,” Puckett said. “I got a chance to start as the first seed with the whole world here. I’m ready to move on. I’ve been (racing) for 10, 11 years. I love it. I love racing, that’s why I’m staying in it, but I still have to prove myself in the coaching arena. I just like to race, basically. That’s what it comes down to. I love banging plastic.”
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