Valle Nevado (Chile). With the season’s first Parallel Slalom the opening of the 2001/2002 Nokia Snowboard FIS World Cup was concluded today at Valle Nevado, Chile. Perfect weather conditions with pure sunshine and temperatures of about 15 degrees made everyone enjoy the race which resulted in a French double again by Mathieu Bozzetto and Karine Ruby.

It was the common opinion: Snowboarding at its best at Valle Nevado with four perfect days in a row and Ted Martin, FIS Snowboard race director, summarized: “It was the best Snowboard World opening in the FIS history ¿ I hope we are going to come back here again.”

The final competition day was all about sunshine and those who didn’t qualify were hanging around in the finish area to cheer at the riders coming down the hill, not matter which country they were from.

Mathieu Bozzetto from France, Parallel World Cup champion for three seasons in a row, has not been on snow until he got to Valle Nevado ¿ he became a father just 11 days ago. Today the French made his way through the finals by beating the Austrians Harald Walder, Felix Stadler and Alexander Koller. When he faced Markus Ebner in the final heat it was pure excitement: After Bozzetto has made a mistake in the first run the German took the lead and was ahead until the finish line. In the second run Bozzetto looked as if no one could stop him anymore – he turned it around and smoked the course to finally take the win. “This is great,” he said. “Slalom always has been my favourite discipline and I really wanted to take the World Cup leader bib today. The conditions have been great, the snow was pretty soft but it stayed okay and I managed to use the right technic. After the fault in the first run I knew I had to go faster so I’ve put a lot of pressure. I’m so glad I worked it out and I like to dedicate this win to two people: My friend Lionel who passed away three weeks ago and my little sun Camille.”

Ebner, similar to yesterday’s Parallel Giant Slalom, pulled second. “Second place is fine,” he said, “but it’s also hard to be that close to a win twice and end up second in both races. I was leading by sevent hundrets of a second only and this is not much when you race against Mathieu so I knew I had to put everthing into the second run. I think I have put a bit too much pressure on the nose and kind of lost my rythm. I didn’t believe I could make it that far again since the PGS already required a lot of power, especially in this altitude. It’s more than I would have believed.”

The duel for third place was a pure Austrian affair between Alexander Koller and Alexander Maier which the latter finally got under his belt. “I’m happy,” he said, “I won the last Slalom last season and start again with third place, this feels really great. The conditions have been like in spring and I wished we had more of those competitions, maybe three weeks later…”

France’s Karine Ruby was the only women in the finals who could win all duels, just until she met Steffi von Siebenthal in the final heat. Ruby opened up the gap by 75 hundrets of a second in the first run. Then the Swiss managed to win the second run but could not make it up so Ruby took the win with a margin of 62 hundrets of a second. “I was really disappointed when I didn’t make it up yesterday,” she said, “but I was very motivated to do better today and it was so much more fun with those conditions. The snow was soft but it was not too hard to find the right line through it. The race has been a lot of fun.”

Von Siebenthal turned second and was glad that it was done. “This was really great,” she said, “but I’m glad it’s over since I’m so tired and I’m ready to go home now. The slope has been genious to race, everybody was in such a good mood, so it was pure fun and great racing. I’m happy that I made it to second place with still all yesterday’s runs in my legs and Ruby really deserved the win today.”

Austria’s Claudia Riegler and Heidi Renoth from Germmany faced each other in the duel for third place. When Riegler has won the first run by only four hundrets of a second, Renoth saw her chance to make it up and she did to finally claim third place 62 hundrets ahead of the Austrian. “This was a perfect start into the season,” she said, obviously relieved. “I only had two third places last season and now got two podiums on the first weekend. After yesterday the pressure was completely off me so I took it a bit more relaxed and the conditions did the rest. It was really hard to race in this altitude but it was so much fun.”

Most of the riders head back home now to pick up training again before the World Cup will be continued mid November in Tignes, France.