World Cup leaders Maelle Ricker and Pierre Vaultier take home victory in Snowboard Cross race at Stoneham
Snowboard Cross World Cup leaders Maelle Ricker (CAN) and Pierre Vaultier (FRA) have impressively underlined in Stoneham why both are sitting on the top spot of the ranking. While Ricker (3,960 points) secured her season's third win in the fifth snowboard cross of the 2010 LG Snowboard FIS World Cup, Vaultier (4,800) celebrated his fourth win thus clinching his career's second World Cup title with still two competitions to come. In the ladies final, Ricker relegated reigning World Champion Helene Olafsen (NOR), her teammate Dominique Maltais and Switzerland's Sandra Frei to the second to fourth spot. On the men's side, US-American team riders Graham Watanabe and Shaun Palmer rounded out the podium as second and third while Drew Neilson (CAN) came in fourth.
Before the price ceremony took place, this season's dominating rider had successfully competed in the finals coming in first in a photo finish. Pierre Vaultier, who had - by his standards - "only" placed sixth in the time trials, got along with the course better and better as the race went on thus winning all of his knock-out heats. "It was a new experience for me not being one of the fastest. But I knew that I can ride this course and in the end, it's the race what counts and not the qualifiers" the 22-years-old said. It was Vaultier's third win in Stoneham which made him also joke around a bit: "Maybe they should name that course after me. But seriously, I really like this hill. It feels like home for me."
Due to his season's fourth win, his career's ninth, the Frenchman is a good bet for Gold at the up-coming Olympic Games. "Being one of the main aspirants for the title scares me a little bit as everybody will look at me. But I'm in a good shape and had a good season so far. I will focus on myself and trust in myself - even when this is pretty hard sometimes."
Watanabe secures Olympic spot
At the Winter Games in Vancouver, Vaultier will also meet Graham Watanabe who clinched his personal spot in the Olympic team of the US in the very last race. "I love this. Oh God, I'm so relieved. Now I finally can lean back, relax and have a good time. The stress is over" the 27-years-old expressed. But to secure his ticket, the Park City resident had to handle some ups and downs. In the probably most important race of his live, Watanabe goofed in his first time trial run yesterday being forced to make it to the top-32 in his second run - which he did by nailing the best qualification time. "I totally went for it except of the spot where I fell before. You can't race conservative in a team which is as strong as ours."
With the ticket to the Olympics to his belt, his photo finish defeat was OK for him: "Well, it's a bitter sweet pill. Of course it would have been great to take the win but I'm happy about my Olympic spot."
Maelle Ricker rides down on her own
While the men's final provided some enthralling head-to-head action until the finish line, the finals on the ladies' side were an easy task for Maelle Ricker who rode down the course alone after her contenders all went down. First of all, Olafsen crashed in turn three after she had some board contact with Dominique Maltais. But thereafter, the Norwegian took advantage of the misfortune of Maltais and Frei. In turn four, the Canadian caught an edge and went into the fence and bounced back in the course - right in front of Frei who couldn't avoid the collision in which Maltais' board broke.
"It's nice to win but not when people are falling and probably get hurt" Ricker said after the final which was totally different compared to the ones the fourth ranked rider of the 2006 Winter Olympics was in before. "Normally, there is some noise of the boards behind you. But this time, there was just silence."
The LG Snowboard FIS World Cup continues tomorrow in Stoneham with a halfpipe contest.