Byrnes Wins Nokia WC HP in Kronplatz

KRONPLATZ, Italy (Jan. 18) — Tricia Byrnes (New Canaan, CT) made it two wins in a row for U.S. snowboarders, winning a FIS World Cup halfpipe Thursday in Kronplatz, Italy. It was the first win of the year for the defending FIS World Champion, coming on the eve of the World Snowboard Championships which begin Monday in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy.

American Chris Klug (Aspen, CO) won the men’s parallel giant slalom a day earlier.

Scandinavian riders dominated the mens’ contest with Espen Arvesen from Norway taking the win in heavy fog and snow.

Byrnes claimed the win in and her second motorcycle, this time a Ducati (the other coming in her World Cup finals win in Kronplatz two years ago, that time a Harley). The win also brought the U.S. closer to its goal of a maximum national quota of four riders for the Olympics.

“I’m too scared to ride a motorcycle,” she laughed. “I was getting to the finals thinking that I just wanted to keep it big and clean. I’m totally psyched that I won and even landed my tricks because all morning and yesterday.

“I have been struggeling super high to get anything done. It’s just nice to pull through when it counts.”

Reigning Junior World Champion Kelly Clark (Mt. Snow, VT) took third ahead of Japanes rider Michiyo Hashimoto. “When it was snowing in the morning I just thought the pipe is going to be terrible and for the first few runs it wasn’t that great but it really improved a lot,” said Clark. “They did a good job in getting the snow out of the pipe so it was pretty good.”

Natasza Zurek from Canada who crashed in the first run and then had a nice second run went in second place and had fun racing today. “The pipe got so much better since yesterday and the weather improved too,” she explained. “The shape went a lot better. In the first run I was too nervous which I didn’t want to be but I just couldn’t make myself come down. In the second run I was not caring anymore, just went to ride, wasn’t feeling nervous and that helped a lot. I never got such a high result this year so I’m really happy.”

Norwegian rider Stine Brun Kjeldaas, who won all previous contests this season, was not at the start today but is further leading the standings. Hashimoto sits in second place ahead of Anna Olofsson from Sweden who finished ninth place today.

Arvesen had failed to make it to the finals in the first qualification but claimed the highest score in the second. In the finals he had a perfect first run, collecting the maximum score for amplitude, took the lead and non of his rivals was able to make it up also in the second final run.

“I was planning for more technical tricks in my second run,” Arvesen said, “I had something in mind like a 1080 – I don’t think so many people do that trick – but I just went with the same run because I got really high airs there and thought that I could maybe get some more points. I have been in that situation before when I had a high score, started to think about the win and then someone just took it away from me so I was not feeling too safe. I really need that score – I haven’t been riding so good in FIS this year so I’m stoked. We got all the Norwegian top four so we are a happy team going home now.”

Like Byrnes, Arvesen will also take a Ducati Monster Dark motorcycle home: “I’ve been thinking about buying one for a long time and now I get one so I’m just happy for both the win and the motorcycle.”

Daniel Franck of Norway finished in second place. Sitting in second position after the first run he looked as if he wanted to turn the card in the second but failed with crashing right before the finish line.

“I was trying to go as fast as possible in the second run to get the amplitude,” he said, bbecause I think that was what the judges were looking for. It was hard to ride in this pipe. All that handmade snow with new snow on top of it made it pretty slow – it was hard to do technical tricks like spins and flips so it was more about the amplitude. However, people’s mind changes when the weather changes and once it gets better they become more happy and comfortable – I think that’s why it went better towards the end.”

Sweden’s Magnis Sterner was the only one to break the Norwegian dominance with finishing third ahead of Kim Christiansen. Sterner continues to lead the standings ahead of his teammate Stefan Karlsson who went in sixth today, and Franck. The World Cup continues Friday with snowboardcross.