Hargin, Bock win FWT La Clusaz
January, 16, 2011
By Trey Cook
France's Seb Michaud threw a huge backflip that earned him second place.
Swedish skier Janette Hargin and German snowboarder Aline Bock overcame difficult snow conditions and a strong field of competitors to win the first event in the women's 2011 Freeride World Tour, the first-ever La Clusaz Radikal Mountain freeride competition, which took place this weekend in France.
In the women's ski division, with the 2010 Freeride World Tour ski champion Ane Enderud on the sidelines nursing a tweaked knee and the 2010 runner up Jess McMillan temporarily out with a neck injury, all eyes were on the FWT 2010's third place overall finisher, Jackie Paaso. Unfortunately, the Tahoe local crashed out on a technical double drop.
In the end, it was former Swedish alpine star Janette Hargin who claimed top honors in the women's ski division. "It was pretty tough conditions today," Hargin told ESPN. "The snow was changing a lot and I wasn't really sure at the start what conditions to expect." New Zealand's Janina Kuzma placed second, with Germany's Pia Widmesser rounding out the podium.
In the women's snowboard division, behind 2010 Freeride World Tour snowboard champion Bock were Austrians Liz Kristoferisch and Ursula Wohlschlager, in second and third respectively.
In the men's ski division, top three went to Sweden's Erik Sunnerheimerik, France's Seb Michaud and Germany's Thomas Leitner. In the men's snowboard field, Austria's Christian Schnabel and Flo Orley took first and second, respectively, and Mike Aeschbach from Switzerland took third.
The women's snowboard podium: Aline Bock, Liz Kristoferisch and Ursula Wohlschlager.
The top finishers from this weekend received wild cards to the first Freeride World Tour event, happening next week in Chamonix, France. Many big-name competitors from the FWT competed in this weekend's qualifier, using it as a warm-up for Chamonix.
In total, 107 skiers and snowboarders, men and women, competed for 51 spots in the finals. Runs were conservative with the few exceptions of a huge backflip by France's Seb Michaud that sent him straight to the final round and second place overall, and an attempted double backflip by Argentinian Juan Bergada that sent him straight to the hospital with a broken leg.
The snow conditions were so poor, event organizers almost canceled the final day of the contest. After the qualifiers, the athletes assembled for a riders' meeting Saturday night, and the question on everyone's mind was whether or not the competition would continue. Head Judge Cyril Neri explained, "The problem right now is that the snow conditions are not very good. For the final venue, some places are really crusty, some places are good but it's very steep and super exposed so it might be too dangerous to run the event." In addition to their usual safety equipment, riders would be required to wear harnesses with a sling and carabineer attached for the climb to the ridgeline, which included a short downclimb.
The women's ski podium: Janette Hargin, Janina Kuzma, Pia Widmesser
When a few riders voiced their concerns, a vote was held with 10 of the 50 riders voting against holding the event, 20 voting for going ahead with it and 20 abstaining. The tally was in: Finals would start at 10:30 on Sunday morning. "To be the best freerider you must be able to ride more than just powder," said Freeride World Tour head judge Cyril Neri.
Finals were held at the top of the Col des Aravis above La Clusaz. The face is around 1,600 vertical feet with steeps up to 45 degrees. On the venue, diagonal rock bands opened into a wide face peppered with rock jumps and then funneled into an area studded with small trees that riders had to pick through to reach the finish.
The next event on the Freeride World Tour is the Nissan Freeride de Chamonix Mont-Blanc on Saturday, January 22. Check back here for updates from that event. For full results click here.