Day 1 of the long awaited first stage of the Freeride World Tour 2009, the Nissan Russian Adventure, took place today in the Krasnaya Polyana resort near Sochi in Russia, the site for the 2014 Olympic Games.
Everything was perfect to make this event a success, large amounts of fresh snow, blue skies with no clouds in sight and riders ready to take on an impressive face for the first competition of the season.
Visible from just about everywhere, there were 4 starting points at the summit of the ski area offering various choices in runs from open runs, rocky terrain, cornices and cliff jumps. After having accomplished the first section with a bit of sluff (small surface snow movement that can make it difficult to remain steady), there was an area of rolling hills that provided a playground for their creativity with jump options and line choices where all 56 riders were able to reveal their talent.
The face required a lot of preparation from the security team comprised of mountain guides. In the last few days, there was major snowfall at the starting points on the crest which created massive cornices. “Our work modified the terrain a bit revealing icy areas notably when we cleared some high-risk zones” said Stephane Dan. “The last inspection between 8:15 and 9:15 is so important that it is essential to win. There were numerous riders that were waiting for the last visual confirmation before making their tactical decisions even after discussions with other riders during the Riders’ Meeting conducted by the mountain guides Wednesday night.”
Eric Themel (AUT) leads the men’s snowboard competition. Raising the standards high for the competitors to follow, Eric traced a magnificent line with perfect execution even with the sluff and mastered his jumps. On the second half of the run, he chose a unusual line through trees that no other rider attempted with perfect control, power and absolute fluidity.
Cyril Neri (SUI) proclaimed that he was riding for pleasure rather than put himself under the pressure of the competition; and this mind-set worked well for this 3-time winner of the Verbier Xtreme who was present thanks to a Wild Card. He had a fluid start even with a grab on two hanging cliffs and a spectacular jump near the bottom of the technical area. He then performed a back flip on a natural pipe which attests to his remarkable creativity on all terrains which leaves Eric leading only by a thread.
Annina Karvinen (FIN) ranks first of the women’s snowboard competition, she chose a difficult line and performed well which attests to her rapid progression. Close behind, Nathalie Zenklusen (SUI) headed down the slope with no hesitation and a perfect line; just a slight lack of speed made the difference.
Reigning World Champion of the Freeride World Tour 2008, Ruth Leisibach (SUI) unfortunately was injured while training the day before the competition.