World Cup ski cross: Rahlves, Kerr tune up for X Games in Lake Placid
Daron Rahlves of Truckee placed fifth in his first World Cup ski cross of the season Monday at the Nature Valley Freestyle Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Truckee’s Errol Kerr, who skis for Jamaica and trains out of Alpine Meadows, finished 17th after crashing into the fencing on a narrow section of the course.
Casey Puckett of Aspen, Colo., placed 14th and moved into fourth place in the season standings, just one point behind Lars Lewen of Sweden, who won Monday’s event.
It was Lewen’s first win of the season, while Austria’s Patrick Koller was second and World Cup leader, Tomas Kraus of the Czech Republic was third.
“Today was crazy. It was a fight the whole way,” Rahlves said. “I would have liked to make the finals, but this was a solid result.”
Rahlves elected not to enter a European swing of competitions, choosing instead to stay at home with his family and focus on the Winter X Games in Colorado later this week.
“This was a good way for me to get tuned up for next week. It was a good wake-up call,” he said.
Rahlves said the first heat of the day set the tone. After tangling with another racer and narrowly escaping a crash that would have eliminated him, he said each heat after that was a scrappy fight.
“A little luck played into my hands, but from there out it was crazy fighting,” Rahlves said.
U.S. Ski Cross Head Coach Tyler Shepherd said it was a relief to ski a course that was more flowing and typical of the style the Americans are used to. In Europe, the athletes encountered jumps and rollers that were built differently and didn’t play into the U.S. team’s favor.
“It was a lot more flowy. All the athletes hit the landings where they were supposed to and there were nice big banks you could double and suck up,” Shepherd said.
For the women, it was the first time for a field of 32 for the finals. In previous races, the finals were only open to 16. Shepherd said opening up the field gave the Americans a chance to ski with the top women and gain valuable experience.
“Margie Thorp got to ski one heat with Ophelie David, the best woman on tour, and that was really good for her. It’s important for them to be in that kind of situation and get some experience,” Shepherd said.
David won the women’s title, while Australia’s Jenny Owens was second and France’s Meryl Boulangeat third. Americans Kate Bragg and Christine Cordeau finished 30th and 31st, respectively.
The World Cup ski cross tour features nine events this season. The sport will make its Olympic debut at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
U.S. athletes head to Aspen for the 2009 Winter X Games to begin training today, where Rahlves will defend his ski cross title from last year.
“It’s the big one for us, and it being a longer course that plays to our strength even more,” said Shepherd.
” The Sierra Sun contributed to this report
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