Maëlle Ricker Column 

The season winds down in Spain

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By Maëlle Ricker

The Asian part of the World Cup tour is finished and we are now on our way to Europe, again.

However, before heading over the Atlantic we made a stop in Lake Placid for the only American contest on the FIS tour.

I flew into Montreal and met up with Rene, my snowboardcross coach. His wife and baby girl were with us as we drove to the U.S. border. Rene is Austrian and his wife, Agi, is Hungarian. Their daughter, Blanca, is Hungarian and Austrian. I had a sneaking suspicion our ever so notoriously friendly customs officer was going to have a field day with us. We spent the good part of an hour waiting for Rene to sort out the mess at the border and finally were on the road south.

Lake Placid is pretty close to Canada, only about two hours drive from the Montreal airport with good traffic and no border line-ups. The town of Lake Placid is very cute and has great character. It seemed like a small place to hold the Olympics, but I guess the Games back in 1980 were quite a bit smaller than today’s Olympics.

The Canadian team had the opportunity to stay at the Olympic training facility. From the outside it looked a lot like a military compound, but the inside was much nicer than what any of us were expecting. The rooms were huge. I shared a room with three other girls, Dominique Vallee, Erin Simmons and Sarah Conrad. The centre also had a gym, weight room, physio clinic, and cafeteria. You could go eat whenever you wanted, and the selection of healthy food was amazing. Some of the U.S. Olympic Team lives there year-round. There were a lot of lugers and bobsleders training while we hopped in for the week. I managed to stay all week and not spend a dime!

We rode at a mountain about 20 minutes from town. Whiteface Mountain was a lot bigger than any other ski resort I’ve been to in the Eastern United States. The snow conditions were nice, especially since they received a big dump of white stuff the first couple nights of our stay.

The surrounding valleys and mountains, as well as the aspect of the resort created a very windy site. We didn’t have one day of calm weather. This made halfpipe and the snowboardcross riding more challenging and quite dangerous at times.

Nonetheless, the Canadian girls still pulled through with a couple of medals. Mercedes wowed the crowd in the pipe finals by throwing beautiful backside 540s off her first hit and took home a silver medal. Justin just missed the podium on the men’s side and placed fourth in a competitive field, which included first place finisher Shaun White.

Erin Simmons was the other medallist of the weekend. She charged a difficult snowboard cross course and just missed the top spot. Erin led the race until the bottom section of jumps, where Lindsay Jacobellis of the U.S. sneaked through by the skin of her nose. Those two battled out to a similar finish a couple weeks back in Aspen at the X-Games.

I drove back to Montreal with Rene and his family again. We met up with the rest of the snowboard team at a hotel for a relaxing night before our flight to Europe the next day. Unfortunately the next day didn’t go as planned. Our flight plan was Montreal to Toronto, Toronto to Frankfurt, and Frankfurt to Malaga. Rene and Francois made it to Europe. Erin, Rob Fagan, Tom Velisek, and I didn’t. We missed our connection in Toronto and had to spend the night.

The missed flight was a big problem. The four of us missed the one and only day of snowboardcross training at Sierra Nevada. We didn’t like competing on a course that we had not ridden even once. We were also bummed out about missing a day in Spain.

This was the first time there has ever been a World Cup in Spain and we all wanted to have as many days as possible here.

The bus drive from Malaga to Sierra Nevada was great. The countryside was gorgeous and I tried to take in as much as possible in the three-hour commute. Alexa Loo and Phil Berube flew into the country a couple days before us and went exploring. They drove to Gibraltar for a night. Alexa and Phil explored caves and got food stolen from them by mischievous monkeys. I was a bit jealous to say the least!

We still a great time at the mountain. The snowboardcross went well despite our lack of training. Francois Boivin took third, and Erin placed sixth even though she won the time trials.

The next stop is the last of the FIS World Cup tour this year. We will be in Tandadalen, Sweden. Some of the halfpipe team will join us while Justin and Dominique will take on the Americans at the infamous U.S. Open.

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