Cover photo: FIS/Bucholz
The first World Cup of 2020 went down in sunny (but icy) Font Romeu, France this morning. It was a pretty bulletproof course to start with thanks to the freeze-thaw, but the snow clearly softened a bit through the contest. Design wise, it was far from the most exciting slopestyle course of the year with three jumps and three mellow rail options, but that did mean the riders had to push beyond the stock rail tricks which was fun to see. The judges were hammering scores super hard on any kind of mistake, which combined with the technicality required to stand out on relatively small features, to make for an interesting, if clearly very frustrating, event in terms of 'tactics'.
The speed on the icy course early in the morning definitely took a few of the ladies by surprise on the first run, with quite a few overshoots on the jumps, which came before the rails on this course. Sarah Hoefflin and Giulia Tanno set the early benchmarks. Sarah sent a switch 5 to the fucking moon, stomping right in the flats but holding it together to take an early second place, while Giulia also had a backseat landing deep but was narrowly cleaner overall to take the lead.
Run two saw more speed issues with the course having slowed down significantly between runs. It was a treat to see Jennie-Lee Burmansson's flawless style back on the slopestyle course after injury, with that 540 stale looking just as perfect as always, but she couldn't improve on her 4th place standing this time around. Tess Ledeux landed a bit backseat on her first hit switch 9 (the first of three nines) but was clean throughout the rest of the course to take the lead from Giulia. Sarah sent the first dub attempt of the day on the final run, but came up short of speed and didn't quite bring it round.
Cody LaPlante, back from injury this season, posted up the first solid score of the day with an 83 courtesy of a dope looking forward dub misty 12 and a technical rail section. Plenty of the guys were overshooting the second jump too, with Fabian Boesch keeping up the trend of the Swiss going all the way to flat and stomping with an insane dub 16 tail. He also followed Sarah's lead in swearing on camera after the run. Höpp Schweiz. Mark Hendrickson held the lead after run 1, with both clean and technical jumps and rails (the switch dub 14 nose being the highlight). There were guys trying more but most had some kind of bobble that killed off their scores. Andri Ragettli went for the ultra-clean run but far less technical through the rails than most (front swap, pretz 2 on the A-frame that was getting a whole host of super-tech tricks thrown on it). Interestingly the approach didn't really pay off and only landed him provisional fourth.
Cody's forward dub misty 12, which he hung out to dry, was definitely trick of the day for us, but he couldn't put down his rail run a second time which meant no improvement of his score. Kim Gubser was the only guy throwing a triple but hit the fat tube vs the a-frame and he was clear that was what was killing his score in the finishing corral. One by one the riders dropped but by and large, failed to put together a complete run with the second jump and the rails being the stumbling block for most. Henrik couldn't keep it clean, making it through the jumps on his second attempt but coming up short on a disaster 4. Christian Nummedal and Oystein Braten looked close to upsetting the podium but the final rail caught both out, the former only managing a front 2 and the latter coming off early. Birk Ruud was the third Norwegian to go close but a back 3 swap on the penultimate rail feature went awry. Last to drop was Andri Ragettli but he fell a victim to the second jump. All this left MarkyMark Hendrickson standing on top of the podium having led for virtually the whole day. Huge congratulations to him on his first big win!
You can watch the event in full here, assuming they leave the stream up:
You may need a proxy depending on location.