Winter X: Anderson, Ricioli squeak into finals
Life is full of second chances, and Joanie Anderson and Trevor Ricioli took advantage of theirs on Friday at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo.
Anderson and Ricioli each used a second qualifying run to make the finals of the women’s boardercross and men’s skiercross, respectively.
Meanwhile, X Games icon Shaun Palmer of South Lake qualified for Saturday’s boardercross finals with no trouble, placing 12th in a field of 25.
Anderson, a 2007 Winter X gold medalist, took a conservative approach to make the 12-rider women’s finals.
“There were only 13 of us, so I was kind of keeping it safe in time trials, trying to stay on my feet,” Anderson said. “Time trials typically aren’t my strong point.”
Ricioli’s path to Saturday’s men’s skiercross finals wasn’t so smooth. Making his X Games debut, Ricioli said he became overwhelmed by where he was.
“I got a little nervous,” he said. “It kind of hit me when I was up there. It wasn’t exactly how I wanted to qualify, but I pulled it together on the second one.”
After struggling with the 26th-fastest time out of 27 riders in the opening time trial, Ricioli took advantage of a second qualifier, posting the fourth-fastest time out of nine skiers trying to make the finals.
Consequently, Ricioli nailed down the 22nd spot in the 24-rider finals set for Sunday.
“It was fun. I’m glad I made it,” said Ricioli, who improved by nearly two seconds on his second attempt. “My second run was a lot better; I wasn’t as nervous.”
Ricioli said the format of six-rider heats on the final day suits his style better.
“Qualifying is more like an Alpine event,” he said. “I like it when it’s a bunch of us going head to head down the course.”
Ricioli joins Truckee’s Daron Rahlves and Errol Kerr in the finals. Kerr qualified fifth, while former World Cup star Rahlves was eighth. Chris Del Bosco led the qualifiers, with former World Cup racer Casey Puckett second.
After recording the 12th-best time in her first qualifying run, Anderson was required to take a second qualifying run to determine the last four finalists. The veteran of the X Games responded, finishing third among the five competitors to grab the 11th spot.
“I definitely didn’t want to be that one person (who didn’t make it),” said Anderson, who earned a bronze medal last year. “I was pretty confident. I knew I needed to be smart and fast at the same time, without falling.”
Like Ricioli, Anderson prefers the tightly packed heat format of the finals over the qualifying setup.
“It’s always interesting to see when there’s a six pack coming down,” she said. “I get faster when I’m with five other people.
“The course is really firm, made really well. It’s scary and fun, so it adds excitement to the races.”
Lindsey Jacobellis led the women’s qualifiers by more than a second.
Seth Wescott topped men’s boardercross qualifying. The 2010 Olympic gold medalist’s time of 1:29.209 eclipsed Max Schairer (1:29.915) and Alex Pullin (1:29.983). Squaw Valley’s Nate Holland was ninth at 1:31.054 and three-time Winter X boardercross winner Palmer 12th at 1:31.182.
“He doesn’t slow down. A lot of people will slow down when they get older,” Ricioli said of the 42-year-old Palmer. “He can run with the young guys. Not slowing down is his thing.”
The course’s gnarly jumps test the participants’ nerves and courage, according to Ricioli.
“The jumps are massive. A couple of guys went 150 feet. That’s why my shins are sore,” Ricioli said. “You have to ski a really flat ski and ace all of the rhythm sections and jumps to keep your speed all the way through.”
Anderson said that the lip of the bottom kicker was shaved in response to complaints from many riders and skiers.
“It was so big at first that a lot of guys didn’t hit the jump and no girls hit it,” Anderson said. “After the first day of practice there is a meeting, and there are always changes to the course. I knew they wouldn’t have to do that jump.”