SQUAW VALLEY — Truckee Olympian Tim Jitloff sliced a wire-to-wire FIS giant slalom victory Wednesday to open five days of Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships competition at sunny Squaw Valley.
The race, a precursor to Friday’s U.S. Championship event, was held on Red Dog with firm snow conditions and a large crowd of fans, friends and families on hand to enjoy the annual end-of-the season celebration.
“I just skied and enjoyed myself. I wasn’t thinking about winning or time,” Jitloff said. “For me this is very relaxed, there’s not pressure here and I can just have fun. I grew up here. The first races I every won as a kid where on Exibition.”
Recent NCAA giant slalom champion Mark Engel of Truckee and the University of Utah finished second, 2.79 seconds behind Jitloff, while two-time Junior World Champion and current NorAm overall champ Ryan Cochran-Siegle rounded out the podium in third.
“You’re always fighting on this hill. It’s long and steep all the way to the finish,” Engel said of the Red Dog GS course. “It was really hard snow during the first run and the second run it was a little softer in some of the turns, but it never felt like it was going to give way. I think I always have a chance on Friday, so I’m going to go for it a little bit more.”
Among other racers with ties to the Lake Tahoe/Truckee area, Nick Cohee finished sixth, Sean Higgins was 15th, Bryce Bennett 16th, Erik Arvidsson 17th, James Lebel 23rd, Garret Driller 26th, Ty Sprock 29th, Addison Dvoracek 31st, Riley Plant 34th, and Cody Wilson 36th.
More than 80 men raced, with 34 of them failing to reach the finish line, including Olympic silver medalist Andrew Weibrecht.
The men will compete in the U.S. Alpine Championships GS race on Friday, which will feature Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety and Squaw Valley Olympian Travis Ganong.
“This is my backyard, but Ted [Ligety] is going to be here Friday and he’s the best there is,” Jitloff said. “I’m going to battle with him, but who knows. We’re going to have fun and put on a show for the crowd. That way the young kids can see where the guys on the team are at and see it with their own eyes. That’s what’s important.”