It's the first day of Olympic snowboardcross events at Cypress, and crowd was feeling it. The grandstands sounded like a roller coaster ride of stomping, cowbells, and cheering that accelerated with each turn and jump as if they were coming down the course with the riders—all 4,375 of them.
Boarderscross is brutal as all these riders know, but some of them got a harsh reminder today. Two French riders, Pierre Vaultier who had won every World Cup event except one coming into the Olympics, and big mountain freerider Xavier de le Rue, didn't even make it into the quarterfinals. Both Nate Holland and Seth Wescott advanced to the "big finals," along with Canadian Mike Robertson and French rider Tony Ramoin. Nate was battling for first when he just sort of looped out and fell— a common move today on this rutted course, which put him in fourth place. Seth came from the back of the pack and battled his way to the front just barely beating out Mike for the gold. Since we are here on Canadian turf we should mention that Mike just won the third Canadian snowboard medal ever—Dominique Maltais got one in boardercross in 2006, and of course Ross Regabliati famously won the first Olympic snowboard medal ever in 1998 in giant slalom.
This is Seth's second consecutive Olympic Snowboardcross gold medal. At a press conference after the event Seth talked about his decision to change his focus from pipe to boardercross in 2003. He talked about startgate strategy, about and the two clean passing zones on the course, and then he got a little deeper talking about some of the motivational challenges of competing on the World Cup circuit after all these years saying, "I've been at it for so long that I lose motivation—sometimes I don't like to ride a crappy, foggy course at Bad Gastein," referring to some miserable sounding World Cup qualifier earlier this winter. He really lit up, though when he was asked about what the people back him in Sugarloaf were probably doing right now. A huge smile crossed his face, he started laughing, and said, "Given the circumstances, and the way the timing went, après ski is probably going off at The Rack right now." The Rack is his apres ski bar and restaurant on the road to Sugarloaf. I wonder if the ten-percent rule counts for the Olympics. Party on people.
The medal ceremony for men’s boardercross is scheduled for 7:00 pm tomorrow at BC Place in downtown Vancouver and it is open to the public.
Tomorrow is women's boardercross qualifiers and finals—Lindsey Jacobellis' chance at gold medal redemption.