France and USA take first ever Team SBX Gold
History was written in Spain today when French riders Nelly Moenne Loccoz and Chloe Trespeuch on the ladies' side and US men Hagen Kearney and Nick Baumgartner were crowned the first ever Team SBX World Champions at the Sierra Nevada 2017 FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships.
Unlike the days before, which had been blessed with bluebird sky and warm spring temperatures, Mother Nature had a different script in mind for Monday's historical race as an overnight weather change presented riders with colder temperatures and increasing snow fall over the course of the day.
As a result, the course was a different beast than it had been the previous day, with Sunday's soft slush gone and a much firmer course requiring a new set of tactics, as gold medal winner Kearney explained.
“I knew it was going to be tough. Waking up this morning, we didn't think this race was gonna happen. But I knew I could beat everyone in the start, and I knew wind would be a factor and that there would be a lot of drafting as you saw pretty much in every heat. So, I was just able to put down my best run in the finals. And when that happens...”
… he walks away with the Gold.
In fact, the men's big final ended up being the best advertising for the team event that organisers could have dreamt of, with both sets of four riders locked in a tight battle from top to bottom on a course which had produced very big gaps in Friday's time trials.
Kearney, known for his superb starts, took off like a rocket, gaining the hole shot and fighting off his rivals, with each rider battling hard for every metre in the hope to gain some advantage for their teammate waiting atop of the course for the gate to drop.
When Kearney crossed the finish line first, things went right the way as Baumgartner had predicted in a quote he had stated following yesterday's snowboard cross medal event:
“Hagen’s going to kick everyone’s butt coming out of the start and I’m going to be the freight train following up. Whoo whoooo!”
In the end, the big man from Iron River, MI, stuck to his own script, and came in first to celebrate his career's first world championships title.
“This feels awesome, and it's just cool as we waited until the finals of the team event to both have our best runs on this course. So, if those other guys wanted to take the win, it was gonna have to be us making a mistake. Unfortunately for them we didn't do that today.”
Baumgartner also admitted that it was the right redemption for missing his third world championships podium after coming in fourth yesterday.
“You always wanna be on the podium, but yesterday those three guys, 1,2,3, they were the best. But today, I always told Hagen 'As soon as we team up together, we will win.' And this is our first time teaming together, and we won!”
However, the pure joy about the victory didn't hide the fact that it took a photo finish decision to give USA the title, after yesterday's silver medallist Lucas Eguibar (ESP) had a heroic run to move from fourth to second and very nearly past Baumgartner at the line.
After he had passed Markus Schairer (AUT) and Chris Robanske (CAN) he prepared for a final attack on the race leader from the US but made a mistake in the last section.
“That's where I lost the Gold,” he said. “I'm very happy to be on the podium again, but it's a little bit bittersweet as I almost caught Nick.”
Coming in second, the local hero earned his second silver medal in 24 hours – this time alongside teammate Regino Hernandez.
Canada's Kevin Hill and Chris Robanske rounded out the podium in third, with Austrian duo Alessandro Haemmerle and Markus Schairer forced to settle for fourth.
Over in the women's event, things weren't as tight and enthralling as the men's showdown as the title was actually decided in the first run of the final heat when the girls were halfway through the track.
Five-time world champion Lindsey Jacobellis was getting a draft on leading Nelly Moenne Loccoz going over the jump which enters turn four when the US athlete changed her direction last second to the left to avoid landing on the tail of the French woman in front of her whilst also aiming for the inside line.
But as Raffaella Brutto came from the right Jacobellis couldn't avoid a collision with the Italian just before the landing.
With both ladies crashing out the road was paved for a French double victory, with Moenne Loccoz and Chloe Trespeuch taking home the gold, and Manon Petit and teammate Charlotte Bankes claiming silver.
“It feels great to be the world champion, especially together with Chloe as we are really good friends. That makes it so much easier to snowboard together," said Moenne Loccoz,
"We put our strengths together today: I was going for the quick start and she was supposed to bring it home. And that's what we did."
Although team ITA1 came in ahead of USA1, it was Lindsey Jacobellis and Faye Gulini earning the Bronze after Raffaella Brutto and Michela Moioli got disqualified as Brutto didn't pass one gate correctly following her spill with Jacobellis.
The 12th FIS Snowboard World Championships in Sierra Nevada, Spain continue tomorrow with the parallel giant slalom event starting at 9 AM CET (qualifiers). The finals are slated to kick off at 1 PM CET. Click here for an update on the TV times.