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Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Olympic-sized Dew Tour begins in Breckenridge Wednesday
Sebastian Foltz / firstname.lastname@example.org
At this year’s Dew Tour, 21 of the 32 Sochi Olympic freeski and snowboard medalists are expected to participate. For many of them, it will be the first major competition of the season and the first time facing one another since Sochi.
But if last week’s U.S. Grand Prix halfpipe competition at Copper Mountain — which featured a handful of the world’s best — is any indication, Breckenridge is in for a big show.
There was no Olympic hangover for freeski gold medalist David Wise or four-time women’s snowboarding Olympian Kelly Clark, both of whom topped the podiums last week — even though for Clark, like most of the athletes, it was only the fifth day back in a halfpipe since early in the summer. Clark will face some serious competition this week with gold medal teammate Kaitlyn Farrington also scheduled to attend.
All three top men’s skiers scored in the 90s at the Grand Prix, showing that some of the heavy hitters are coming out swinging.
“Usually a lot of guys fall and there’s a lot of mistakes, but everybody was skiing pretty solid,” Wise said of the high level of early-season competition. “If that’s any indication of what Dew Tour and X Games are going to be like this year, it’s going to be pretty unreal.”
While there was no slopestyle at Copper last week, Sochi gold medalist Joss Christiansen said the first two days of on-course practice at Breckenridge look like the competition there will be just as high.
“It’s crazy to see all the new tricks people have learned over the summer. Everyone’s killing it,” he said Tuesday. “You can really see who has been motivated and dedicated all summer. It’s a lot more intense than it has been. A lot of people are trying to prove themselves, it shows how much the sport is growing.”
Christensen will be joined by U.S. teammates Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper. Together the three completed the Olympic podium sweep for the inaugural Winter Games slopestyle competition.
The competition in snowboarding will be equally high, with U.S. slopestyle gold medalist Sage Kotsenburg, Canadian silver medalist Mark McMorris and Swiss halfpipe gold medalist Iouri “IPod” Podladtchikov.
“It’s going to be a real dog fight,” Christensen said.
While Clark and Wise look like they’re picking up right where they left off, other athletes might be looking for a little Sochi redemption.
Both snowboarder Arielle Gold and freeskier Torin Yater-Wallace came out of the gates strong last week, each finishing second. Gold suffered a dislocated shoulder just prior to dropping in the qualifying round at Sochi and missed the rest of the year. Yater-Wallace dealt most of the season with a twice-punctured lung — once after a medical treatment and the second time during Dew Tour practice — which kept him out of a halfpipe until right before the Olympics. He was awarded a coach’s discretionary selection to the U.S. team.
“I was pretty rusty and not doing so hot,” the six-time X Games medalist said of his 26th-place finish in Sochi.
Arielle’s brother and fellow Olympian Taylor Gold will also be one to watch coming off a Grand Prix win. The 21-year-old rider finished third at last year’s Dew Tour.
LOCALS IN THE MIX
Breck locals and U.S. Olympic slopestyle freeskiers Bobby Brown and Keri Herman could also be in the running on their home turf. The pair finished ninth and 10th respectively in Sochi.
On the snowboard side they’ll be joined by fellow local Eric Willett, who was on track to qualify for Sochi when a crash during training at Copper cut his season short with a cracked vertebra. He was back on snow late in the season and is reportedly back to 100 percent after spending some of the summer riding in Australia, New Zealand and Whistler, British Columbia.
For the seventh Dew Tour at Breckenridge, course designers lived up to their reputation, with both the superpipe and slopestyle courses getting the thumbs up from athletes.
“It’s pretty rad,” Christensen said after two days practicing on the slopestyle course. “Coming back to a full-size slope course is pretty intense.”
Chief among the challenges, he said, are the rail setups.
“The rails on the course are pretty tricky. There’s a lot of consequences.”
But he added that they’re also set up for some creativity.
Overall, he said, “I think it’s a big, fun course that’s going to allow everyone to throw down.”
On the halfpipe, it’s all about steep walls and length.
David Wise said the extra length compared with the pipe at Copper tends to allow for a little more creativity.
“I love the Dew Tour halfpipe. It’s long. I’ll probably be able to get six hits, which adds an extra trick to my run, which is always fun. I’m looking forward to it.”
And the steep walls make it easier to maintain speed for higher amplitude, according to Clark. She also said it gives her more options for her run.
The competition gets underway Wednesday with women’s halfpipe and slopestyle qualifiers for skiers and snowboarders.