Palmer returns to the top |

Palmer returns to the top

Seth Wescott, Nate Holland and Graham Watanabe entered this weekend’s Jeep King of the Mountain races as members of the U.S Snowboard “A” team. However, the trio left the Rocky Mountains with a new teammate – and one they might be battling most of the season.

South Lake Tahoe’s Shaun Palmer outlasted a stellar field to win the first Jeep King of the Mountain boardercross race of the season on Sunday in Telluride, Colo. He finished ahead of runner-up Wescott, third-place Watanabe and fourth-place Holland, who rides out of Squaw Valley.

A six-time X Games gold medalist, Palmer stood on top of the podium for the first time in almost a decade.

“I had to double check at the end just to make sure I had really won,” Palmer said in a press release. “It’s been nine years since I’ve stood on top of a podium and I really wanted to win this one. These are such good racers and I know them well. When on the course, you’re not friends with them for about 55 seconds, but at the end we’re friends again.”

Palmer qualified for the 2006 U.S. Olympic team in boardercross but tore his Achille tendon in a World Cup race leading up to the Torino Games. Fully recovered from the injury, it hasn’t taken him long to establish himself again as one of the world’s top boardercross racers.

“We’re really stoked for Shaun to qualify for a spot and join us for the rest of the season,” said Peter Foley, U.S. Snowboard team head coach. “It was pretty exciting to have an all-American final four. Many of the top World Cup players were here. It was a good showing.”

Palmer will be with the U.S. team when it travels for a World Cup race next month in Bad Gastein, Austria. Palmer, though, wasn’t the only Tahoe-area athlete to shine over the weekend.

Truckee’s Daron Rahlves, a former U.S. Alpine Team skier, took second in the men’s skiercross race behind Sweden’s Lars Lewin. Former Kirkwood ski team member Errol Kerr, now of Squaw Valley, placed sixth.

“I had really good starts all day today, which was extremely important,” Lewin said. “This was an incredible field of athletes that rivals the X Games and Olympics, and knowing that Rahlves was on my tail there at the end was enough motivation to keep fighting for the title.”

Truckee’s Anik Demers Wild placed fourth in women’s skiercross, a race won by France’s Ophelie David. In the women’s boardercross race, Lindsey Jacobellis placed first and was followed by Canada’s Maelle Ricker and Dominique Maltais.

Coverage of the Telluride races will be televised on CBS Dec. 29 and Jan. 12.

The next Jeep event is Feb. 8-10 at Squaw Valley.

The final race is March 14-16 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Athletes from almost a dozen nations are competing for a season-long cash purse of $250,000.

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