Video by Justin Gunson
All Photos: Nick Hamilton
Captions by Hondo
A changing of the guard at the 2014 Copper Grand Prix men's pipe finals
Part of the Five Stops To Sochi series presented by Mammoth
US Snowboarding rookie team members Taylor Gold and Ben Ferguson where charging in the Grand Prix pipe at Copper, Colorado Saturday night, showing proven riders like Scotty Lago, Louie Vito, Danny Davis, and Christian Haller that the next generation is hungry and has a deep bag of tricks. As the second qualifying stop of five for riders hoping make the US Olympic team, the Copper Grand Prix is a crucial event to pick up early points.
Shaun White was noticeably absent as he is focusing on slopestyle finals on Sunday.
Of the 16 riders who made it to finals, Taylor qualified second to last but came out swinging on his first run, also the first of the contest. On his first he hit boosted a huge backside 540 into a frontside 1260 that looked so smooth it could have been a 900. On the next wall he threw a double Michalchuk to a frontside double cork 1080, finishing with a Cab double cork 1080. That run was worth a first place score of 90.25, which held the length of the contest.
The result put Taylor in the second qualifying spot for the US Olympic team with 1,600 points after his third place finish at the Dew Tour pipe.
"For the rookies, we want to say we can hang," Taylor said of his win against the more established riders. "We just showed it."
Things weren't quite so easy for Ben Ferguson who ended up in second place after his first run but was bumped to third by US Snowboarding Pro Team member Greg Bretz. Ben came back in his second run, however, putting down a cleaner version of his first run which included a double crippler, backside 900, inverted frontside 720 to cab double cork 1080, and an alley-oop tuck-knee indy. That gave him 87 points putting him in second place and Greg in third.
By the time Greg was ready to drop in, France's Arthur Longo had bumped him to fourth with a score of 86.75, trashing hopes of a US sweep. Sticking to what's been proven to work, Greg went with the run that beat Shaun White at the Dew Tour pipe last weekend, minus one trick due to the shorter pipe at Copper. To recap, that was: a double cork 1080, Cab double cork 1080, frontside 900, inverted backside 900, and frontside 1080 tail grab. Earning an 87.75, Greg edged out both Taylor and Arthur to land in second.
"I just tried to stay, calm cool, collected at the end of my second run," said Bretz. "I was just trying to stay mellow and it worked out for me."
One thing you might notice about all these runs is that there were no straight airs, well except for Ben's alley-oop, which isn't technically a straight air, but pretty close. That's because the FIS recently passed a rule that says straight airs aren't mandatory in runs anymore, striking another blow against those hoping that style would ever be a part of established contest riding. One rider though, clearly wasn't interested in a run of pure spins. Unsurprisingly, that was Danny Davis. Near the bottom of his first run Danny went for a frontside 1080 to switch frontside air. It was a heartbreaker when sat down as he rode away and it's too bad the judges didn't have a chance to score it. Here's what Danny had to say about it all: "I was riding a lot of switch halfpipe at Hood this summer—I had the run I really wanted to do, which was McTwist, frontside double, and then 10, switch straight air to switch back seven, maybe eventually switch back nine. I was hoping to land the first one so then I could experiment with the second one but… I didn't land."
So how did Danny think the judges would have rewarded his planned run? "Probably not very good," he says. "Who knows? Look at Lago's run. It was all-time—massive. And they didn't reward him it all. I think if I spin a lot they'll reward me. That seems to be the key. If you look at Greg's run, it's 900 or more every hit. They liked that last weekend, they liked that this weekend. Same with Taylor, front 12, things like that. But don't care just to spin the whole way down. One, 'cause I guess I can't, I just don't have the tricks to do it. But it's just not as fun for me either to spin the whole way down. I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing, hopefully one day I'll land and we'll figure out what the judges will score it."
This Grand Prix is also a World Cup event where international riders are looking to qualify for their Olympic teams. Things can change a lot between now and Sochi but minus Shaun and Ipod, the contest is a pretty good look at many of the riders who will end up at the 2014 Winter Olympics for pipe.
US Olympic Men's Halfpipe Qualification Standings
1. Greg Bretz: 1,800
Dew Tour, 1st
Copper Grand Prix, 2nd
2. Taylor Gold: 1,600
Dew Tour, 3rd
3. Shaun White: 800
Dew Tour, 2nd
4. Ben Ferguson: 600
5. Louie Vito: 500
Dew Tour, 4th
6. Benji Farrow: 500
Copper, 4th (Out of US riders)
1. Taylor Gold (USA)
2. Greg Bretz (USA)
3. Ben Ferguson (USA)
4. Arthur Longo (France)
5. Taku Hiraoka (Japan)
6. Scotty James (Australia)
7. Benji Farrrow (USA)
8. Christian Haller (Switzerland)
9. Yiwei Zhang (China)
10. Scotty Lago (USA)
11. Ryo Aono (Japan)
12. Louie Vito (USA)
13. Ayumu Hirano (Japan)
14. Danny Davis (USA)
15. Chase Josey (USA)
16. Matt Ladley (USA)