World Cup ski cross: Rahlves 13th in season opener | SierraSun.com

World Cup ski cross: Rahlves 13th in season opener

U.S. Ski Team and Sun Staff report

INNICHEN/SAN CANDIDO, Italy and#8212; Casey Puckett kicked off the ski cross World Cup season in a big way Monday, taking third to mark the fourth ski cross podium of his career in northern Italy.

Truckee’s Daron Rahlves was 13th, and newcomer Caitlin Ciccone led the U.S. women in 28th in her finals debut. Errol Kerr of Truckee, who skis for Jamaica, finished 58th. Truckeeand#8217;s Scott Horn was 81st.

After Puckett qualified third despite several mistakes, he battled his way to win his first three heats to make it to finals.

and#8220;Every time Casey qualifies fast he’s confident,and#8221; said U.S. Head Ski Cross Coach Tyler Shepherd. and#8220;And he has a lot of confidence coming through now.and#8221;

In his first heat (round of 32), Puckett won the start and had a clean course ahead of him. He made just one mistake and#8212; going long off a jump and#8212; but was able to hang on for the win.

and#8220;The course here is easy without a lot of terrain or passing points,and#8221; said Shepherd. and#8220;So the start is critical and skiing a mistake-free run.and#8221;

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In the quarterfinals (round of 16), he again won the start but the field was packed tighter. Puckett won the holeshot and stayed ahead for another win, boosting him into the semis.

Rahlves looked to have the semifinals made with a strategic mid-course pass, but was passed back going into the finish and didn’t move on.

and#8220;There’s no reason he shouldn’t have been in the semis,and#8221; said Shepherd. and#8220;What would have been great is he would have then skied the heat with Casey and they could have worked together to make the finals. But watch for Daron tomorrow. He’s cleaned up a few things with his line and I would expect him to qualify higher and be a factor.and#8221;

Puckett had some challenges in the semifinals (round of eight), missing the holeshot after the start. But he was able to capitalize on other skiers’ mistakes to take another win into the finals.

His key challenger in the final round of four was Swiss Michael Schmid, who was perfect all day long. Schmid had mastered the cadence of the starter perfectly to get the edge out of the gate. The timing was off on Puckett’s first skate out of the gate which put him behind.

While Schmid rode a clean course to the win, Puckett battled French skier Xavier Kuhn all the way. Puckett nearly got by the Frenchman on the second turn, but had to adjust his line so they didn’t cross tips.

and#8220;There’s really no passing possibilities on this course,and#8221; said Shepherd, and#8220;so Casey was just hoping for a little mistake to find the window in the finals.and#8221;

FIS Freestyle World Cup

Innichen/San Candido, Italy

Dec. 21, 2009

Ski Cross

Mens

1. Michael Schmid, Switzerland

2. Xavier Kuhn, France

3. Casey Puckett, Aspen, CO

4. Audunm Groenvold, Norway

5. Tomas Kraus

13. Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl, CA

52. Justin Johnson, Park City, UT

53. Jean Christophe Rudigoz, Sun Valey, ID

81. Scott Horn, Truckee, CA

Womens

1. Anna Holmlund, Sweden

2. Ashleigh McIvor, Canada

3. Ophelie David, France

4. Sophie Fjellvang-Soelling, Denmark

5. Emilie Serain, Switzerland

28. Caitlin Ciccone, Littleton, NH

44. Langely McNeal, Ketchum, ID