On the second competition day in Bakuriani, Georgia, the FIS Snowboard Cross World Cup show reached another level. Not only was it a bluebird sky and super sunny day, but each and every single one of the heats was really one to watch. The athletes showed what they still had left in their tanks after a couple of pretty intense days here in Bakuriani and we witnessed some really tight racing.
World Champion Charlotte Bankes wins after tactical choices
The four women left for the final heat of the day were brand new World Champion Charlotte Bankes (GBR), Sierra Nevada 2017 silver medallist Chloe Trespeuch (FRA), Saturday’s fourth placed Michela Moioli (ITA) and USA’s Faye Gulini.
Moioli and Trespeuch took the lead immediately after the start gates dropped, whereas Gulini got into third and the World Champion in fourth position. But the tall French didn’t miss out on the chance to take the inside line on the first bank turn, making it an incredible passing move on the Olympic Champion Moioli, who got a little bit too far out on that bank.
With Trespeuch now in the lead, Moioli got into her wind shadow and used it to her advantage, especially on the upcoming roller sections, but at the next turn, Trespeuch again chose the fastest line and was able to stay in the lead with some good speed under her board.
After the following jump, Bankes, sitting in fourth, gained massive speed after some great air-time, which gave her the chance to pass not only Gulini, who was in third, but shortly afterwards also Moioli.
It was another step-up element, which made Bankes gain even more speed, and with the final roller section ahead, the World Champion solved those elements so wisely that she was able to make the pass on Trespeuch still before the final jump and then simply sending it over the finish line and winning the big final.
After one of the almost last jumps, Gulini, who was sitting in fourth position, made a similar move to Bankes’s, gaining enough speed to be passing Moioli on the outside line and defending her position throughout the final meters of the course, edging the World Champion off the podium and making it her third podium this season.
The winner of Friday’s race and current World Champion, Charlotte Bankes, stated after the race: “It was a very fun race! Yesterday it was tight in the semi-finals, so that proved that I had the vibe in me to make it. After the World Champs, in Reiteralm, I really wasn’t riding well, so afterwards I had to work on my ride. It was quite the tactical race, so I am really happy with the choices I made. Today was just great, I had fast boards and made the right choices.”
Omar Visintin back on top
The final heat of two action-packed competition days in Georgia was left to the following gentlemen: The Italian duo Lorenzo Sommariva and Omar Visintin, Swiss athlete Kalle Koblet and World Cup leader Alessandro Haemmerle, who had to make up for the fourth place of the previous race day here in Bakuriani, which didn’t go exactly the way he had planned.
Koblet, who started at a World Cup big final for the second time in his career after Big White (CAN) 2020, where he missed the podium by an edge, shot out of the start gate as fast as a rocket, but soon Haemmerle was so fast on the outside line of the bank turn, that the Austrian World Cup leader got into first and Visintin close behind him also made a pass on the Swiss to get into second position.
Haemmerle, now in the lead got into some serious trouble after a step-up, when landing on the following roller, just before the next bank turn, as it seemed that his board caught some edge, causing him to completely turn his board around in a 180 manner.
Not surprisingly, the remaining three athletes were able to make their passes on Haemmerle, with Koblet getting into first, followed by the Italian duo Visintin and Sommariva. The Austrian in the meantime showed his excellent skills, because he turned his board around in no-time and was able to regain some speed after the following bank and rollers. He was still in fourth, but not as far behind, as one would think.
Koblet was still in the lead and Visintin on his tales, chasing the top spot of the heat, while in the meantime, Haemmerle gained more speed after a bank, where he chose the right line to overtake Sommariva, getting into third.
It was not until the second-last jump, where Visintin was able to make some more speed, then rush over the roller section and finally, after the final jump, being able to pass Koblet just before the finish line and grabbing a super tight victory.
Kalle Koblet claimed his maiden podium with Friday’s excellent performance and Haemmerle made a really good comeback to the podium after it seemed that he had almost lost everything after his near crash. And although Sommariva was able to get closer to the Austrian also after the final jump, the Italian wasn’t able to pass Haemmerle in the end, making it a fourth-place finish for him.
“It was a hard race. I did a big mistake in the semi-finals, but still managed to go on, so after that I knew I could do it. I had really fast boards and in the final my goal was not to be first until the last section, so I tried to stay behind Koblet as long as possible to suck all the draft and it worked out. It was great,” a happy Omar Visintin commented after the race.
World cup winners not decided yet
Snowboard cross athletes will now return home to recharge the batteries and get ready for the World Cup finals in Veysonnaz (SUI) on March 20, 2021.
As the win of the SBX crystal globes is not decided yet, we have to take a quick look at the super tight standings.
On the women’s side, we have a very interesting situation, as Eva Samkova is the owner of the leader bib after the Georgian back-to-back races, but Michela Moioli has the exact same number of points, which is a total of 350. Although they have both 350 points, there is a tie break, which means that Samkova is the leader, BUT this promises a very epic battle for the globe at the finals.
Faye Gulini is sitting in third with a total of 282 points, so theoretically also still in the mix for the globe.
On the men’s side, Alessandro Haemmerle gained some important points on Sunday, making it a total of 330, while Eliot Grondin, who is currently sitting in second, got out after his first heat, so now he is 62 points behind the Austrian. And sitting in third rank, we have Glenn de Blois with 227 points, so it seems rather unlikely that he will be in the mix for the crystal globe battle, however in snowboard cross, you never know.
See you all in Veysonnaz for the FIS Snowboard Cross World Cup finals. It will be the final show of the season with a crystal globe battle to watch, so make sure to stay tuned!