Jekova and Brochu surprise world's best in Veysonnaz
Alexandra Jekova (BUL) and Baptiste Brochu (CAN) have topped the first snowboard cross competition of the double World Cup event in Veysonnaz today.
While the Bulgarian racer earned her career's third and season's first in a tight women's final becoming a true expert for races in Switzerland now, Brochu brought home his first career win in foggy weather conditions and slight snow fall.
The 21-year-old up-and-coming talent from Canada who had only one top-10 result under his belt so far (sixth in Feldberg, Germany this January) came out first of the s-curve on top of the high-speed course built by Todd Main in the men's final capitalizing on a crash of his rivals right behind of him which gave him a comfortable lead on the long roller section which offered a lot of slipstream drafting.
In the end, Brochu, who has some special memories on racing on the Piste de L'Ours, brought home his lead into the finish becoming the eighth male winner in Veysonnaz.
“It feels so good to win my second final appearance ever. I'm super stoked. It's a dream come true. I don't have much to say. It's great to win here in Veysonnaz, the place where I broke my rib last year.
I also did my first top-16 here. I know the course so I wasn't worried about my last year's injury,” he said before adding: “I will keep the same plan for tomorrow: race smart, be patient and keep it simple.”
Exhausted World Cup leader almost there
A game plan which could also work for 2014 Olympic champion Pierre Vaultier who came in second securing his fifth consecutive top-2 result in a photo finish against Alessandro Haemmerle (AUT) and therefore extended his World Cup lead.
The most dominating racer of the 2015-16 season chose an unique tactical approach to compete in the heats of 6. In all of his rounds, he started last, dropping on the course a few seconds behind the pack.
“Today was a pretty tough race, and I don't know how I managed it to end up in second position. It was a very strategical race which did cost a lot of energy.
Nevertheless, my strategy will remain the same for tomorrow: keep it easy, start a little bit behind of the others and start drafting behind trying to move forward place by place.”
It could be a tactic which at least secure him his career's fourth World Cup title after 2008, 2010 and 2012.
With only two more races to come Vaultier is now sitting in first position (4,580 position) with Haemmerle (2,840) already 1,740 points behind. As a result, a tenth place in tomorrow's race would be enough for the married father of one.
“It feels pretty good that I have secured the lead in the World Cup ranking with a comfortable lead,” Vaultier stated.
Tight battle for the crown on the women's side of things
While Alexandra Jekova added another successful chapter to her career book with the main stories taking place in Switzerland, the race for the Crystal Globe is getting more and more intense in the women's competition.
Jekova earned six of her so far 17 World Cup podiums on Swiss soil, including all of her three wins; the 28-year-old definitely has a good connection to the hosting nation whilst being happy to have left the hard times of the recent years behind:
“My last three seasons have been pretty tough for me with slight injuries and some technical problems. I was trying to put myself back on the level I had before, but I definitely had some issues with my riding technique.”
As a result, the Sofia resident was focusing on her technique today in order to be as good as possible:
“However, I had some bad starts because my right arm is still injured. But I made it through to the bottom. I'm happy that I crossed the line first. I couldn't believe it at first, but in the end, it's a great achievement.”
Belle Brockhoff (AUS) and Eva Samkova (CZE) rounded out the podium as second and third respectively; a result which added some more spice to the exciting race for the Crystal Globe.
Reigning Olympic champion Samkova took over the World Cup lead with 3,760 points due to her third rank she achieved thanks to a great passing manoeuvre during the final run squeezing from sixth to third in the last turn.
But today's fifth ranked rider Michela Moioli (ITA, 3,650) and fourth-place finisher Chloe Trespeuch (FRA, 3,440) are breathing down her neck in the very close standings.
Nevertheless, Samkova will try everything to defend the lead:
“It feels pretty good. It's the first time in my life that I have the yellow bib. I'm very excited, and I will try to keep the lead until the end of the season for sure. I will do my best but it will be very hard, because it's a very close thing, and all the girls are very good, too.”
The snowboard cross World Cup will continue tomorrow with the penultimate race of the season also staged on the Piste de L'Ours.
The finals of the best 24 women and 48 men will kick off at 11:15 AM with several TV stations broadcasting the competition live.
WORLD CUP STANDINGS