Silver Belt Banzai: Daron Rahlves takes mens title, sister Shannon Rahlves wins womens crown
With another 18 inches of snow falling overnight, the 24 racers still in contention for the Silver Belt Banzai woke up Sunday to stormy conditions, low visibility, and the same menacing course that had taken its toll on the field the day before.Truckee ski racing legend turned ski-cross star, Daron Rahlves, led the field after qualifying, and played the role of race promoter from the very beginning convincing his sponsor Red Bull to provide support, Sugar Bowl resort to provide the venue, and the racers themselves to ski the course in the not-quite-ideal conditions on Sunday.As was the case on Saturday, the deep snow on the all-natural ungroomed course through the Silver Belt Gully created some chaos, especially with visibility down to almost nothing with six racers at a time charging through the gates during Sundays heats.But the soft snow did make for some spectacular crashes, keeping the brave spectators entertained throughout, and softer landings when a line was skied a bit too aggressively.In the first quarterfinal heat of the day, Rahlves fell victim to the treacherous conditions himself, getting off course and having to hike up to make a gate before continuing. A little luck kept him in the race though, as two other racers had crashed on the same section he got stuck on, and the competitor skiing just ahead of him whom he had to pass to finish in third and move on to the next round was yours truly.As the 24th place qualifier (i.e. last) for Sundays six-man heats, I was stoked just to be able to race against a stacked heat that included Rahlves, Squaw Valley freeskiing stud Gunnar Newquist, and Silver Belt runner-up from 2004 (the last time they held the race) Cliff Bennett.So as Rahlves blew by me on the lower section of the course, I was most surprised by the fact that he wasnt way out in front to begin with.Not making it through to the next round was just fine by me, as one balls-to-the-wall run down that course had pretty much taken everything out of my legs anyway.Apparently Rahlves legs didnt feel the same, as he pretty much led the field in both the semifinals and finals to take home the title of 2009 Silver Belt Banzai champion, and the $3,000 check that came with the win.On the womens side of things, the competition was a little less intense, with just two women skiers entered, the up-and-coming freeskiing star Jackie Paaso, and Darons sister and all-around formidable athlete, Shannon Rahlves.The womens final turned out to be the race to watch, as Paaso led most of the way, but Rahlves used her fresher legs and some serious guts to beat Paaso down the final stretch to the finish.Paaso did earn major props from all competitors though as the lack of female competition convinced her to join the mens quarterfinal and semifinal heats, barely missing a chance to compete in the mens final behind the same three skiers who had saved me from advancing: Daron Rahlves, Newquist and Bennett.Paaso, who admitted that her legs felt like Jell-O by the time the womens final was over, spoke about her motivation for racing against the men:My time from yesterday qualified me with the boys so I figured that if theyd let me in, I wanted to try [racing with them] for the challenge. But unfortunately, by the time my final heat came around I was worked. So it didnt really play to my advantage.Even mens winner Daron Rahlves admitted to being pretty tired out after the three heats he ran on Sunday:This was one of the toughest leg-burners Ive ever had. Its just a sheer pounding the whole way down. You cant let up, and the more turns you put in the more tired youre going to get. So [the strategy] was just to straight-line, hold on, and hope you hit all the tops of the bumps.
Mens ski1) Daron Rahlves2) Shawn McGee3) Nicholas Barton4) Trevor Tanhoff5) Cliff Bennett6) Gunnar NewquistWomens ski1) Shannon Rahlves2) Jackie PaasoMens snowboard1) Jake Somerrell2) Brian Bozack3) Pat HallWomens snowboard1) Emily WeirJunior Mens ski (under 19)1) Corey Talbott2) Brett Hammann3) Tyler Hunter
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