Halfpipe’s most consistent rider, Tommy Czeschin, and powerhouse Hannah Teter won the first Grand Prix event of the year at Breckenridge yesterday. The men’s podium was rounded out by none other than TransWorld’s 2004 Rider Of The Year Travis Rice and Canadian Justin Lamoureux. Kelly Clark and fifteen-year old Elena Hight (with a frontside 900) followed Teter in second and third place respectively.
Start by picturing a trademark Breckenridge halfpipe, high-pressure blue skies, and a field of riders rarely seen at any snowboard event. The season opener is always a gathering--Colorado old schoolers (veterans of the Rocky Mountain Series!), wide-eyed pre-teens whispering and pointing, and the world’s best riders all made their way out. It’s the kind of scene that’s reassuring to anyone who’s built a life around shredding; no matter how many nights you still spend on a mountain-town couch or how many pro hos you’ve got on speed dial, you know riding away your twenties was the right decision when you see Chris Pappas doing cripplers in the pipe at Breck. Man, I hope that never ends.
It seems the Olympics are the ultimate chum. I don’t mean chum like a buddy, but chum like blood in the water. The riders were all there--including Mike Michalchuk (after a three-year hiatus) and Travis Rice. Shaun W. was putting down some smooth lines and evolved style during practice, but, having just returned from Austria, he decided to cut out before Saturday’s qualifier. The next time you’re riding with Shaun, check out how quiet it is. I know, a funny observation, but Shaun lands high on the tranny, in the sweet spot for maintaining speed and setting up tricks--he’s the quietist rider out there. You’ll see/hear what I mean.
Everyone had to qualify for the first Grand Prix--and qualifying for the sixteen-rider men’s final was no small task. The Canadians and the Germans were evidently not sipping Bintangs on a boat trip or lazing around Costa Rica with the rest of snowboarding’s “elite last summer.
In the finals, Justin Lamoureux started his run with an almost ten-foot switch method, and Jan Michaelis was completely off the hook. Tommy Czeschin, who is too often overlooked by judges, put together the clincher--a technical menagerie only The Machine could manage.
The women were impressive, but the field wasn’t nearly as deep. Last year’s overall Grand Prix winner Hannah Teter was clearly ahead of the pack in the amplitude category. She nailed her first run, and because of the reverse running order on the second run, she had already won before dropping in. If Hannah can add an inverted trick like a Crippler or a McTwist to her runs, she’ll keep the other girls at bay. Kelly Clark is gaining momentum and easing back from knee surgery after a meniscus tear at the Open last March.
Why am I going on and on, trying to break it all down for you when you can see the top three runs from the men’s final by clicking below? Check it.
Chevrolet Grand Prix HalfpipeBreckenridge, ColoradoDecember 19, 2004
1. Tommy Czeschin (Mammoth)2. Travis Rice (Jackson Hole)3. Justin Lamoureux (CAN)4. Andy Finch (Fresno/Tahoe)5. Ross Powers (VT)6. Jan Michaelis (CAN) (Jan is no joke--nor are first hit 1080s)7. Xaver Hoffman (Germany)8. Hugo Lemay (CAN) (watch out for Hugo, also!)9. Steve Fisher (Breck and the 612)10. Brad Martin (CAN)11. Vinzenz Lüps (Germany)12. Luke Wynen (Mammoth)13. Christophe Schmidt (Germany)14. JJ Thomas (Golden, CO)15. Abe Teter (Tahoe)16. Keir Dillon (PA)
1. Hannah Teter (VT)2. Kelly Clark (Mount Snow, VT)3. Elena Hight (Tahoe)4. Gretchen Bleiler (Aspen)5. Soko Yamaoka (Japan)6. Tricia Byrnes (Stratton)7. Naho Mizuki (Japan)8. Clair Bidez (Minturn represent!)
For more on this event, go to ussnowboarding.org