On the second of back-to-back competitions in Italy’s Valmalenco resort, athletes needed to get their energy and tactics together again to make it another memorable race day full of passing, jumps and excitement.
After Saturday’s successful first competition of the year with Glenn De Blois from the Netherlands achieving a huge milestone by being the only second Dutch athlete to ever win a Snowboard Cross World Cup since 1997, where it was Mark Janbroers who took victory in Morioka-Shizukuishi (JPN). It was also De Blois’s first-ever World Cup podium on the first competition day in Valmalenco, so it was all eyes on the 25-year-old Dutch again on Sunday.
Of course, Italy’s Michela Moioli did not disappoint on home soil by taking the win on Saturday and she was sure trying to go for a double win at home on that sunny and stunning Sunday afternoon.
Samkova back on top
All four athletes from Saturday’s big final managed to get into the big final again on Sunday, that being Olympic Champion Michela Moioli (ITA), World Champion Eva Samkova, Olympic silver medallist Julia Pereira de Sousa Mabileau of France and Faye Gulini (USA).
Moioli had the fastest reaction time out of the start gate, but it was Faye Gulini who positioned herself in top spot as fast as possible and Moioli right behind her. Samkova and Pereira de Sousa Mabileau seemed to be quite behind the first two sitting in third and fourth respectively and did not look like it would change, when all of a sudden, the French went from fourth to third, passing Samkova.
After that, Pereira de Sousa Mabileau gained a lot of speed through a jump, only to pass Moioli, who fought back and took the next bank to her advantage and got into second again. But already in the upcoming bank, Samkova took the fastest inside line and was in perfect position for the final jump and the last roller section to cross the finish line first, Gulini second and Pereira de Sousa Mablieau third, edging Moioli off the podium.
That truly was a battle from start to finish and absolutely not predictable right after the start, but that simply is snowboard cross…
“It’s an amazing feeling, this is the thing about our sport that you are in fourth after the start and then you are first in the finish. That’s what I love most about this sport. And it’s amazing racing with the girls, it’s super tight and I guess I learned to push hard from them from yesterday’s race. So, thank you, it was amazing,” a happy Eva Samkova commented after the race.
Haemmerle claims first season win
On the men’s side, 2019/20 SBX Crystal Globe winner Alessandro Haemmerle (AUT), Frenchman Merlin Surget and two US-athletes Hagan Kearney and Jake Vedder managed to get into the last big final of the weekend.
Surget shot out of the start gate, but very closely behind him were already the Austrian and Kearney, forming a triple pack, whereas Vedder got a little bit behind at the start section.
Just before the first kicker, there was a crucial moment for Haemmerle, as his board touched Surget’s, almost causing the Austrian to fall out of balance, but he managed to safe the situation, changing into the outside lane.
In the next few meters with banks and rollers, the heat got tighter and tighter with Kearney almost passing Hammerle and Vedder also coming from behind to try to sneak into the podium fight.
Only after the last jump and into the last roler section, Haemmerle showed all of his talent and power and made it into the photo finish with Surget, where it was clear that the Austrian managed to pass the Frenchman at last and Kearney crossing the finish line in third position.
“It was a crazy race. Today, I got my revenge back for yesterday. Today, I fought my way and the big final was so tight in the last turn. But I am really happy to win, really stoked about it,” Haemmerle said at the end of the day.
Taking a look at the Cup Standings, it is still yesterday’s winner Glenn de Blois from The Netherlands in first rank with 129 points leading by 9 points ahead of Alessandro Haemmerle with 120 points and Eliot Grondin from Canada with 112 points.
On the women’s side it is now double lead for Eva Samkova and Faye Gulini after their performances this weekend. They both sit in first rank with the exact same amount of points, that being 160, followed by Michela Moioli with a total of 150 points.
It is now time to put all focus on the upcoming FIS Snowboard Cross World Championships in Idre Fjäll (SWE) on February 11 – 12 with medals up for grab in one single competition and one mixed team event.