Stanley Hayer of Canada/Czech Republic ended Casey Puckett's win streak in The Honda Ski Tour skiercross on Friday, winning a wild final ahead of Czech skier Tomas Kraus. Enak Gavaggio claimed third and Aspen's Puckett fourth, while Daron Rahlves did not compete after crashing hard in training Thursday.
Hayer was second to Puckett at The Ski Tour events in Breckenridge and Sun Valley, but with Friday's win, he's now in a dogfight with Puckett in THST standings heading into the season finale March 8-11 at Squaw Valley.
Simon Dumont won the skier halfpipe title on Saturday.
SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colorado — Stanley Hayer of Canada/Czech Republic ended Casey Puckett's win streak in The Honda Ski Tour skiercross on Friday, winning a wild final ahead of Czech skier Tomas Kraus.
Enak Gavaggio claimed third and Aspen's Puckett fourth, while Daron Rahlves did not compete after crashing hard in training Thursday.
Hayer was second to Puckett at The Ski Tour events in Breckenridge and Sun Valley, but with Friday's win he's now in a dogfight with Puckett in THST standings heading into the season finale March 8-11 at Squaw Valley. Hayer now leads with 260 points, with Puckett just 10 points behind. Racers get 100 points for a win, 80 for second place.
“I’ve never won a major event. I’ve always been second, so it’s nice to be first,” Hayer said. “I’ve always been second … second in four World Cups, three World Cups third, X Games I was fourth … I could never win. Bad luck or something. No, it’s not bad luck, it just had never worked out.”
Friday, despite flat light and intermittent snow, it worked out. After 16 racers moved into the quarterfinals, Hayer advanced from his heat along with Gavaggio. He placed second in the semis to stay alive, then won the finals when Kraus, the former FIS world champ, lost speed midway through the final run.
Hayer earned $25,000 for the win.
“I should talk to [THST co-founder] Kipp [Nelson], maybe he’ll put me on salary," Hayer joked in the finish area. "I’ve never really made money skiing. I love skiing. This is the first year I’ve made money other than sponsors.
“It’s awesome. I hope this tour keeps going, the prize money goes up and I can go hang out with Tiger Woods somewhere and be normal, somewhere in Maui, who knows? This is just fantastic.”
Kraus said, “For me, this was maybe the most difficult course in my career. It’s not really easy for me to be on top in the U.S. But this course worked OK for me.”
Saturday, Tanner Hall, Simon Dumont and other world-class halfpipe skiers will battle for THST bragging rights at the Snowmass pipe.
Kraus, second this season in the final FIS skiercross standings behind Norway's Audun Groenvold, got the all-important hole shot in the four-person final, then opened up a large lead. Puckett went down hard on the upper-third, and Kraus made a slight mistake landing off a roller just past the midway point. That was the window Hayer needed to explode past him for the title.
“My skis were very fast,” Kraus said. “On the first jump before the third turn I was in the lead. It was a great race. After the pro jump is a tight turn, and this time in the final was my best turn there of the day. I was so fast in the table jump that I flew over the landing, and I landed [late] and lost a lot of speed in the beginning of the flat part. It’s a problem if you lose speed before this long flat.”
Hayer said familiarity with the top contenders is a factor. These SX warriors know each other, and they know each other's tendencies.
“Yeah, you have to know them,” the good-natured Hayer said. “Everyone’s got something. I don’t know what I have — they’ll have to tell me. I think a lot of times I’m too smooth, too predictable. If you’re fast, they can’t catch you. … Tomas jumps really weird. If you’re not used to him, it looks like he’s gonna fall when he jumps. Casey likes to swerve. Enak’s pretty clean. Enak’s aggressive, but he’s pretty clean. Lars [Lewen] isn’t as aggressive, but he's always contending. … Everyone’s got their own deal.”
“Sometimes you pick your start gate by who’s beside you. Are you gonna go inside? You don’t wanna be outside of Tomas, because he’ll push you on the inside. You really gotta pick and choose where you wanna be.”
Puckett, who calls Aspen home, confirmed that the Snowmass course was a tough one. “It rates high on the difficulty, this course,” the former U.S. Ski Teamer said. “And it was a long course, about 60 seconds, so oftentimes you’d get lost, not knowing whether to press a jump or to pop it. … It speaks a lot for Tomas Kraus to say it’s one of the most difficult courses he’s been on, because he’s a world champion and a veteran of the sport.”
Hayer said the IOC decision to allow skiercross into the 2010 Olympic Winter Games has boosted the sport for sure.
“Everyone’s pretty fired up that it did get accepted,” Hayer, 33, said. “I did a bunch of work for the athletes. I went to meetings, the Portugal meetings for FIS … I didn’t really do anything, but I was there, trying to push it a little bit. Everyone here is pushing it.
“Some of us might be a little old. Casey and me, on a bad day we say, ‘Nah.’ On a good day, we say, ‘Ahh, we’ll just keep going.’ It’s not a young person’s sport. A lot of young guys get hurt. The old guys seem to stand up and make it down every run, which is really neat. The young guys can’t just come in here and blow us away. There’s a lot to the start, a lot to the blocking … it’s just so different. I think we have a good chance, if we don’t get injured, to be Olympic contenders, for sure. A lot of these teams aren’t going to bring people in all of a sudden. The Austrians aren’t going to bring Benni Raich — he’s not going to be fast right away.”
Puckett was dead last in his semifinal run before turning on the jets to advance, but he couldn't find the magic in the final.
"Those three guys are tough, they were fast in qualifying. I wasn't too sharp out of the start, and those three are some of the fastest," he said.
The X Games gold medalist, Puckett was beaten in the recent Jeep King of the Mountain event, which is a dual format rather than a four-racer format.
"I had a great win streak going," Puckett said, "but my last two races I've been fourth place. I think that's just due to being a little but run-down and just not feeling on top of my game. Hopefully I can pull myself together for that final event."
Lewen won the consolation final with a nifty pass of Davey Barr on the bottom half. “It felt really good,” Lewen said. “I had g
ood timing in the roller section, Davey had his own trouble, and I figured I was going to pass him at the end of the rollers.”
Rahlves, still looking for his first skiercross podium after a stellar alpine career, didn’t get the chance at Snowmass. During training Thursday, he came in contact with a pack of racers that included Puckett on the first roller out of the start.
“He just landed flat — all the guys were doing it,” said Willi Wiltz, who services Rahlves’ Atomic skiercross skis. “Daron was just trying to take a different line.”
Wiltz said Rahlves suffered a lot of black and blues and a twisted knee, but no knee tear. It was a crash that reminded Wiltz of Rahlves’ wipeout in Adelboden, Switzerland, a few years ago. But Wiltz said Rahlves would be able to compete in The Ski Tour finals in Squaw Valley.
A couple of ex-alpine racers — David Lamb and Jake Fiala — took big spills in the intense action and were taken down the slope on sleds. Fiala landed hard on his back, though neither injury appeared to be season-ending.
Aspen/Snowmass THST skiercross final results
1ST PLACE Stanley Hayer
2ND PLACE Tomas Kraus
3RD PLACE Enak Gavaggio
4TH PLACE Casey Puckett
5TH PLACE Lars Lewen
6TH PLACE Davey Barr
7TH PLACE Zach Crist
8TH PLACE Jake Fiala
9TH PLACE Travis Svensrud
10TH PLACE Luca Cattaneo
11TH PLACE Eric Iljans
12TH PLACE Tahir Bisic
13TH PLACE Chris Del Bosco
14TH PLACE Justin Glick
15TH PLACE Cody Smith
16TH PLACE David Lamb
THST skiercross season point totals (through Aspen/Snowmass)
Stanley Hayer — 260
Casey Puckett — 250
Enak Gavaggio — 149
Lars Lewen — 134
Tomas Kraus — 125
Zach Crist — 116
Daron Rahlves — 95
Jake Fiala — 94
Davey Barr — 80
Travis Svensrud — 61
Cody Smith — 60
Justin Glick — 51
Carl Rixon — 50
Chris Del Bosco — 38
Klaus Waldner — 36
David Lamb — 35
Roman Hofer — 32
Jean Rudigoz — 26
Luca Cattaneo — 26
Clic Bloomfield — 24
Eric Iijans — 24
Tahir Bisic — 22
Eric Archer — 20
Christian Questad — 16
Kyle Sul — 15
The Honda Ski Tour – schedule – Aspen/Snowmass
REVISED — THST Aspen Snowmass Competition Schedule — Feb. 22-23
Weather Adjustment (Feb. 22 – 10:00AM)
Saturday, Feb. 24
8:00 – 8:45 Pipe Practice
8:45 – 9:00 Pipe Pipe Closed/Maintenance
9:00 – 9:45 Pipe Heat #1 2 runs/best run counts
16 athletes/32 total runs
9:45 – 9:55 Pipe Pipe Closed/Maintenance
9:55 – 10:20 Pipe Practice
10:20 – 10:30 Pipe Pipe Closed/Maintenance
10:30 – 11:30 Pipe Heat #2 2 runs/best run counts
16 athletes/32 total runs
11:30 – 11:40 Pipe Pipe Closed/Maintenance
11:40 – 12:00 Pipe Practice
12:00 – 12:15 Pipe Pipe Closed/Maintenance
12:15 – 1:15 Pipe Finals Top 12 athletes
2 runs/best run counts
1:15 Pipe Awards
THST Aspen Entertainment Schedule
Friday, Feb. 23
Snowmass Mountain and Village
2:00pm – 4:00pm Après Parties in Snowmass Village and Cirque Café
Cooper Ave Mall & The Silver Circle Ice Rink
5:00pm – 7:00pm Street Party and skating
5:00pm – 7:00pm Public beer garden @ back patio of Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse
6:00pm – 7:30pm Joseph Israel
The Belly Up
8:30pm – 11:30pm George Clinton ($49 advance / $54 door, 7:30pm doors)
11:55pm – 2:00am Elan and DJ Dylan ($15 advance / $20 door, 11:30pm doors)
Crocs Lounge / The Sky Hotel – 39 Degrees Bar/Lounge*
8:30pm – 11:00pm DJ Logic (8pm doors)
11:00pm – 2:00am Tommy Lee / DJ Aero ($99 advance / $104 door, for both)
*Not all guests will have view of performer—multi room venue.
Saturday, Feb. 24
Snowmass Mountain and Village
2:00pm – 5:00pm Après Parties in Snowmass Village and Cirque Café
2:00pm – 5:00pm Après Parties downtown and The Cantina & The Tavern
The Silver Circle Ice Rink
5:00pm – 7:00pm Open for public skate
Rio Grande Park – Basecamp Pavilion Area
7:30pm – 8:30pm Swollen Members
8:50pm – 10:30pm Sean Paul ($30 advance / $35 door)
The Belly Up
10:30pm – 2:00am Gomez with Joe Purdy ($29 advance / $35 door)
Sunday, Feb. 25
The Tavern – Aspen Mountain
3:30pm – 5:30pm – Fashion Show party