Scuol (SUI) - The 2018/19 FIS Snowboard parallel giant slalom World Cup finals wrapped up in thrilling fashion on Saturday at Switzerland’s Scuol resort, where the Russian squad swept the top of the podium with Milena Bykova and Andrey Sobolev taking the respective ladies’ and men’s victories, and Ester Ledecka (CZE) and Tim Mastnak (SLO) claiming the season’s top World Cup honours by taking home the crystal globes.
The reigning PGS junior world champion, Bykova had earned 6 top-10 finishes heading into competition in Scuol and had shown flashes of brilliance throughout the season, but had been held off the World Cup podium up until Saturday’s competition.
There, saving her very best for the final PGS heat of the season, Bykova faced down one of the biggest - and most dominant - stars in snow sports and didn’t blink, besting the Czech Republic’s Ester Ledecka with a supremely confident big final performance that gave the 21-year-old her second career victory.
“Finishing off the season with a win is a really nice feeling,” Bykova smiled from the finish area, “And to do it against Ester is just incredible. She’s such a strong competitor I’m just really happy that I was able to race my best today.”
Ledecka already had her second-straight and third career a PGS crystal globe locked up before the start of competition on Saturday, but with the second place finish she was able to open up a healthy lead atop the parallel overall standings as she seeks to win the biggest trophy of the season for the fifth-straight time.
“For sure this year has been tough, because I decided to go to the Alpine Ski world championships and so I had to miss some races at the start of the year,” Ledecka said with her crystal globe in hand, “But in the end it paid off. I’m happy that I was able to make podiums at every race this season and I think show that I’m one of the best snowboarders in the world.
“For sure now the overall title is a goal, but first of all I want to have a nice race. I’ve ridden just one slalom this season and I haven’t had a chance to train much slalom, so now I have some days before when I can train and test my boards and see which one is the fastest, finally!”
Third place on the day went to Cheyenne Loch (GER), as the German squad finished off an incredibly strong season in which there was only one PGS competition in which at least one of their athletes didn’t make the podium.
Loch’s teammates Selina Joerg and Ramona Hofmeiester led the way for the German ladies through the season, and the pair finished second and third on the overall PGS World Cup standings for the season, joining Ledecka on the awards podium after the competition in Scuol.
Over in the men’s race it was an all-Russian showdown in the big final, with Andrey Sobolev facing off his teammate Dmitry Loginov, the double world champion from Utah 2019.
The top qualifier earlier in the day, Sobolev continued his mastery of the Scuol course throughout the finals, riding smoothly and powerfully to close out the season with the victory and his second-straight PGS podium.
“I want to thank my team and everyone here in Scuol for a great race,” said Loginov following his win, “I’m very happy to finish the season with a victory.”
While Loginov finished second for the third Russian podium of the day, the real highlight of the day for the Swiss crowd in Scuol came in the small final, where Switzerland’s own Dario Caviezel blocked what would have been a Russian sweep by besting Dmitry Sarsembaev by just .14 seconds to claim third place on the day and his third individual podium of the season.
The battle for the 2018/19 men’s FIS Snowboard PGS crystal globe was going to be an interesting one no matter what, but it became even more so when Andreas Prommegger (AUT) and Roland Fischnaller (ITA) - ranked first and second overall before Saturday’s competition - both failed to advance from the first run of qualifications.
With the door open for him, Slovenia’s Tim Mastnak did not let the opportunity get away, riding a strong race to finish the day in sixth place and finish the season in top spot and in possession of the crystal globe, with 3,336 points to Prommegger’s 3,070.
“It’s amazing. It’s unbelievable,” Mastnak laughed after the awards ceremony, “I didn’t want to think about this globe before the race today, but it happened and I’m really, really happy. There are so many good riders out there, every race a new guy can step up and win, so for me to finish the season as the best overall PGS rider is really cool.”
With Prommegger taking second overall on the season, the PGS overall podium was rounded out by Fischnaller in third place.
From Scuol, the FIS Snowboard alpine World Cup tour will head to Winterberg (GER) in two week’s time for the final competitions of the season, with PSL scheduled for Saturday, March 23, and team PSL closing the season out on Sunday, March 24.