Cross racers scorch Steamboat Ski Area course |

Cross racers scorch Steamboat Ski Area course

Trio of club-connected competitors navigate tough course to podium

Jacqueline Hernandez, left, competes behind Kim Krahulec, right, and Michelle Brodeur during the women's snowboard cross finals on Wednesday at the Hole Shot tour cross event at Steamboat Ski Area. Hernandez was nearly perfect through the bottom part of the course and went on to win the race.
Joel Reichenberger

Hole Shot winners

Ski cross men

  1. Tristan Tafel
  2. Nicholas Geddes
  3. Brant Crossan
  4. Nelson Riley IV

Ski cross women

  1. Reina Umehara
  2. Catriona Blair
  3. Ali Pougiales

Snowboard cross men

  1. Alex Tuttle
  2. Christopher Robanske
  3. Robert Minghini
  4. Cleve Johnson

Snowboard cross women

  1. Jacqueline Hernandez
  2. Kim Krahulec
  3. Michelle Brodeur
  4. Jenna Feldman

— From no vantage point can a spectator see the entirety of the ski and snowboard cross course dug recently into Steamboat Ski Area. The start sits far above the finish, a gantlet of banked turns, man­­datory jumps and high berms standing between.

Vision only is part of the sensory experience that is a cross race, however. Wednesday, as the elite Hole Shot tour settled into Steamboat Springs, the crowd screamed when a race started. It roared when the athletes crashed together, and it groaned when one blew a landing and tumbled hard to the snow.

Ski and snowboard cross echoed across Steamboat’s Bash­­or Bowl just as surely as some of the continent’s top racers rocketed through it.

There was plenty to get excited about as most of the final races came down to how competitors navigated the final few steps of the course’s minefield.

“It was crazy. I made a little mistake on the first turn, and all the girls passed me,” said Jacqueline Hernandez, who recovered, passing the entire field to win the women’s snowboard cross title.

“The jump before the last one, I overshot it and was going really fast. Then there was a double right before the finish-line jump. (Second-place Kim Krahulec) pumped it, but I was able to double it. That’s what made the difference.”

Heat after heat was decided by just such intricacies.

The details made all the difference for Steamboat skier Brant Crossan. In just his second week of ski cross, the Alpine racing veteran struggled all day with a tough section of rollers near the start, and he was in trouble in his semifinal race, trailing all three skiers.

He cut time wherever he could, however, surging to third and then, in a photo finish, into the finals via a second-place finish.

He went on to place third and earn his first ski cross podium. Tristan Tafel won the event.

“The course is designed so the faster you go, the smoother it becomes,” Crossan said. “That’s weird because you’re timid off the jumps, but if you dedicate to it, you can do good and go faster.”

The men’s snowboard cross finals was one of the few heats Wednesday that lacked a last-second spoiler.

Alex Tuttle, a Maine boarder who has been training with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, found a way to master the top part of the course and won every race he was in. Powering off the early features, the X Games-bound rider earned a quick lead in the finals and cruised to victory.

“The hole shot was pretty much everything,” he said. “The hole shot, whoever makes it through the first straightaway first is pretty much out in front. I was working those top features hard and getting everything I could out of them, then trying to be super clean.”

Steamboat also got a podium finish from Ali Pougiales, who was third in the women’s ski cross, behind champion Reina Umehara.

Action returns to the slopes at 10 a.m. today.

Heat racing — in which only the top two of a four-person race advance — will begin at about 1 p.m.

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