Brockhoff and Kearney secure win in nerve-racking Montafon snowboard cross opener

16 December 2016 19:08
The Montafon SBX course provided some thriling heats - as always
The Montafon SBX course provided some thriling heats - as always -
FIS/Buchholz

Belle Brockhoff (AUS) and Hagen Kearney (USA) have triumphed in a thrilling and exciting snowboard cross World Cup opener staged at Montafon (AUT) today which delivered tons of moments which make boarder cross what it is – a stunning and unpredictable show.

Brockhoff, who had secured her first ever podium as third in the Silvretta Alps four years ago on the same slope, came out victorious of a tight battle in the women's final which featured several changes of the lead.

The photo finish in the women's final at SBX World Cup Montafon

After a few back and forth manoeuvres the 23-year-old crossed the line first in a photo finish edging off Chloe Trespeuch (FRA) and Lindsey Jacobellis (USA) to the respective second and third rank. Last year's winner Nelly Moenne Loccoz had to settle for fourth.

However, the racer from down under had to play it smart to bring home her career's second:

I have seen how it was going over the last roller section, and I was just trying to stay on my board and wait for the right moment to make the move. I saw my opportunity over the jump and kind of went for it on the right side. That was a bit more flat so I had a bit more speed”, she said before adding:

The course has been challenging with the turns, that's were I had problems in the past. I had to stay patient as the most times I would just have gunned it which would make you lose speed. It's always learning. It was a fun day of racing.”

While Brockhoff had the right end of an exciting duel Chloe Trespeuch missed her second triumph by a blink of the eye. However, the reigning French champion was still OK with the result:

“I'm really happy with the race. We had a lot of action with the other girls. It's been a good day. It might have been bitter sweet being edged off so close but that's the game.”

Historic re-run brings career's first for Kearney

While the women got the podium decision done straight in their final, over in the men's event, it took Race Organisers two attempts to finally determine the winner.

After Omar Visintin had already started to celebrate a perfect start to the new season, riders and spectators at site got informed that the final heat had to be re-run due to a gate malfunction for Alex Pullin (AUS).

In the end, it was Hagen Kearney, who had never podiumed before, who had the best nerves and kept the momentum of his strong start performances also winning the hole shot in the re-run final – just like he did in all of his heats before – to finally bring home a small lead over Visintin and Pullin with 2016 X Games Gold medallist Jarryd Hughes (AUS) missing out the podium as fourth.

I know nobody really wanted to go back up there and race again, so I figured I had to have the edge on everybody. I wanted to do this again.

Every time is different. But today, I was full on and ready to go as much as I needed to. I knew it would be a top course to pass so I gave everything I had in the start,” said Kearney who had been pumped for his runner-up finish before the first time in history a snowboard cross big final had to be re-run.

Hagen Kearney celebrates his win together with the US team

In the second run of the finals, I knew they were going for the inside turns again, so I went even closer than in the first final where I got caught. I felt the heat, and that was it. I can't believe it. I just won, it's insane.”

While Kearney capitalised on the technical problems at the start which led to the re-start of the final heat, it was Omar Visintin coming off the wrong end losing the win he already had had in his hand.

When I came down the first final, I was so stoked and relieved. And then at the start of the re-run, I was the one who could only lose. That was hard. But I tried the best and I got second. That's OK. Hagen [Kearney] rode well, and he deserved a good result,” he said before adding:

If the gate opens later, it opens later. A re-run is just fair though. Now I'm second which is a good start to the season anyway. Back in 2014, when I won my World Cup title, I started the season with a runner-up finish, too. Maybe it's a good sign.”

At least a good sign, that riders were happy with the jury decision which was forced by the Australian team.

I got held in the gate but it was weird. I couldn't really tell if I was fully held, so I kept going in the run but I had the feeling that my start wasn't really good. When I came to the bottom I asked to see the start again but they already informed me that the coaches had asked for a re-run already as the gate didn't drop,” recalled Pullin the historical situation.

The second final was also tough as I went side by side with Hagen [Kearney] from the start. I let him take the low line and chased him into turn two and had a lot more speed. But then he closed the gap and then things got super close.

It was a course where you cannot think about what happens but you just have to go for it. I made the podium which is good, and I'm happy for Hagen [Kearney] and his first win. I'm happy to start the season with a podium,” the two-time world champion said.

With the ski cross specialists taking over the course on the Seebliga/Hochjoch tomorrow the snowboard cross athletes return to the scene for this season's first team event on Sunday December 18 at 12 PM CET with the finals streamed live on sportschau.de and on ORF Eins (starting at 1:25 PM CET).

The next stop of the snowboard cross World Cup tour is slated to take place in Solitude (USA), host of the 2019 sbx world championships races, where an individual race and a team event are on the agenda from January 19 to 22, 2017.