2001 will be marked as the year that racing died, and last night under cold Vermont skies, no one mourned the loss. Instead, a hearty crowd screamed and cheered for their favorites and watched Terje Haakonsen and Annie Boulanger win the 1st US Open quarterpipe competition.
This exhibition event, held under the stars, was all for the spectators. Right off the mark airs reached double overhead, and as the jam-format wore on, riders turned up the juice, and brought the crowds to their feet.
Before the fist snowball was lobbed, the women’s division was run. The ladies showed bravado and skill as they attacked the quarterpipe for the half hour jam. Solid straight airs in the overhead range were standard as well as some spins thrown in for good measure. The women got the crowd riled-up, along with the old east coast stand-by, cold beer. Despite efforts by event organizers and police to keep the event chem-free, be reminded, this here is Vermont. In classic “Open” style, spectators and riders alike took to smelling the glove well into the night. And the action was go.
The quarterpipe stood roughly 20 ft. tall and about twice as wide. The women competitors tore down the in-run at speed and set the mark. Locals Kelly Clark and Kim Stacey hucked up some clean airs, as did all the finalists, but it would take a little more. Enter Pauline Richon. She nailed backside 540s, and was the only women competitor spinning backside at all. The score card put her in third, but as mc Pat Bridges stated, “Richon is playing with a different deck of cards than the rest of the women.” She is on the up. Doriane Vidal moved in, after her first 3 or 4 hits Vidal upped the ante with Indy airs well over ten feet, and the crowd lit up. With an emphasis on altitude, Vidal took second on the podium, and went back to the hotel with $5000.
The victor, and most dynamic rider in the women’s division was Canadian Annie Boulanger, another woman on the rise. Every hit from Boulanger had the crowd amped, as she went to the mat for her win. Airs in the 12 to 14 ft. range, a few good saves and a stomped mute frontside five sealed the win for Annie. Crews scraped out the bottom of the tranny and the men began their one hour jam.
As soon as the clock started for the men, it was game-on. Fast and furious was the call. Abusing the vertical, and inciting wild cries from the crowd, the men got it going. Romain de Marchi could have taken this, really. Tom Gilles was the odds-on favorite as he threw airs to fakie over the twenty-foot mark. It matters to no one that he didn’t make the top three, especially him, since for his efforts he got $2500, thanks to Sobe beverages. Best trick indeed.
Though sponsorless, Ron Chiodi put on a hell of a show, and likely will be signing-on somewhere today. Ron stomped Mctwists all night, most over twelve feet out. He also reeled in a nine, putting him in fourth. A really good show from the hometown rider.
Nick Francke was looking good as well, and as soon as the judges start giving points for technical merit, Nick will finish out front. Third place went to James Beach, another Canadian on the podium. Out of nowhere Beach showed what the Open is all about: ride your ass off, qualify, and get in there with the big boys. Congrats to Beach who blasted switch spins and rode away clean.
Olympic champ, Gian Simmen came through in second. A fifteen-foot backside five nosegrab, showed the Vermonters that this Suisse is no one hit wonder.
The backside nine from Terje was apparently the move that sealed the deal for the competition. Haakon also got hit a McTwist seven to put the other riders behind him, and put the ten grand in his pocket. We’ve seen better performances from Haakon, but the veteran earned his money, and with a cool humility, took home the win.
This was the first year for the quarterpipe event, and based on crowd and rider reaction, it will be back next year. Stay tuned for coomplete coverage of Saturday’s US Open Halfpipe competition.
1. Annie Boulanger
2. Dorian Vidal
3. Pauline Richon
4. Kelly Clark
5. Kim Stacey
6. Roy Manon