A pair of twenty-two-year-old terminators bettered their scores each day at Mt. Baker to slip away with the Eighteenth Legendary Banked Slalom. On Sunday the 27th, Boardercross champ Xavier Delerue squeaked by 2001 winner Temple Cummins with a winning time of 1:22:07. For the women, Manuela Pesko built on a Saturday lead to overtake Stacy Thomas and French pro Margo Rozies for the gold duct tape trophy.
It was a decisive European showing in a race usually owned by Northwest riders. Both Delerue and Pesko were first-time Baker visitors urged to see how they could do in the Banked Slalom, whose victors include Sims, Palmer, Kelly, Haakonsen, Morrow, Goodwill, Jeffery, Jealouse, and Christy. Both rode away winners.
The point-it finish seemed to favor the Frenchman Delerue, who’s used to putting the hurt on competitors in Boardercross, “It’s really different, I think,” Delerue said of the two disciplines, “Boardercross is always a hard slope and here you have to be super smooth. If you push too much, you’re gone. Actually, I liked better the powder outside the course,” Delerue laughed.
Racers were treated to a whopping 23 inches of snow Friday, eight-twelve on Saturday, and about the same Sunday. All that made the course probably as soft and fun as it’s ever been. “I’m stoked to be here first time and win, It’s incredible!” gushed Pesko, from Lentzerheide, Switzerland, “I didn’t even know where I was exactly—near Seattle is all,” she added.
In other divisions, the newly created Master’s class was all Melhuse. Former World Cup Pro Shannon Melhuse lead all day, then really put the hammer down, besting closest competitor Matt Remine by three seconds. Tom Burt made steady progress through his first Baker race in fifteen years to land on the podium in third. “I’m due back in 2017,” he cracked.
Mike Cotes fell back to third in Am Master’s after one run, but picked it up in time to cop his second Carhart winner’s jacket. Grand Master Rob Skala nearly fainted at winning his first Baker title in sixteen years trying. Boyfriend-girlfriend honors went to Baker employees Bobby Hickman in Older Ams, and Mechille Kiss in Women’s Ams. Complete results are on www.mtbakerskiarea.com
The Baker crew added some nice touches—live music all three days, collectible art prizes by Shaun Peterson, and a beer garden at the Baked Salmon BBQ. But what really keeps them coming back was summed by the looks on the faces of Cummins and Mervin honcho Peter Saari, coming back into the ski area from out-of-bounds just minutes after racing concluded. “It sucks out there,” said their sarcastic companion. The two smiled and agreed.
Pesko, who blew by Baker vets Karleen Jeffery, Victoria Jealouse, and Barrett Christy thinks so, too: “This race is so much fun because you have the race to go to but besides that you can take some powder lines—and the conditions are epic,” she said.
For his part, Delerue got faster with every drop into the course. All scores went up from the first run, when Delerue trailed Cummins by a tenth of a second, followed by Friday’s top qualifier Ralph Backstrom. But on his second run, Delerue left them all in his dust, “I knew I was fast the last run. I was thinking about victory already,” he said with a smile. “That’s bad, but actually, it was true. I’m a fast guy, I know it. I wanted to prove it, and that’s it.”