Slalom Report – European Championships
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The sun was very much present on July 1-3 for the fifth edition of the Désaxé World Ride in Grenoble, France for the 2011 European Championships. And riders, too, who came from all over Europe to compete for the title of European Champion. -Friday began with giant slalom. The course at Saint-Martin le Vinoux was probably the fastest GS ever run in Europe, with speeds at around 60km/h (37 mph). Racers were doing their best to find just the right equation between speed, controlled turns and pumping the cones. The road offered some spectacular sections, with solid rock on one side and steep slopes just off the road on the other side. At the end of the course racers had to engage in impressive footbraking stretching over several tens of meters. Germany’s Dominik Kowalski confirmed his dominance in this discipline by placing first, ahead of Swedish racers – father and son, respectively – Mika Hadestrand and Viking Hadestrand. Germany’s Kathrin Sehl won the women’s GS.
After a somewhat chaotic start because of technical problems on Saturday, the tight straight slalom got underway. The course of 50 cones with 1.7-meter (5 feet, 7 inches) spacing, flat surface and a strong headwind required the riders to dip into their reserves. Janis Kuzmins of Latvia confirmed his dominance in TS by beating Kowalski. Kuzmins ran both faster and cleaner than any other racer; in the finals against Kowalski, he recorded the two fastest runs of all five elimination rounds, while hitting a total of only two cones in 12 runs including qualifying). Mika Hadestrand made another strong showing in third, followed again by his son Viking in fourth and Stas Mironenko of Ukraine, nowadays living in Germany, in fifth. In the women’s division, Latvia’s Lienite Skaraine defeated Sehl for the title.
Sunday was devoted to special slalom. The course generated a lot of discussions, being considered too advantageous for goofy-foot riders, so the race director decided to mirror the courses, offering two completely opposite courses. This setup had not been used in a big race in Europe since the 2004 Euros, but it set a good precedent for future races. After some intense rounds, Dominik Kowalski once again came out on top. Last year’s special/hybrid slalom world champion Viking Hadestrand (SWE) finished second, and Kuzmins took third place over Mika Hadestrand. The races were exceedingly close, with only about one second’s difference between second (12.007) and 15th places (13.076), giving an average of 0.07 per place in between. That’s some close racing up there in the top 16 bracket! Skaraine claimed her second win of the weekend by again defeating Sehl for the women’s title.
Summing up, this year’s Pro category was pretty much dominated by the top four of Dominik, Janis, Mika and Viking, just exchanging places on each of the podiums. But it’s promising to see that there is a healthy group just outside the top as well, with veteran racers like Michel Dupont, Josef Stefka, Stas Mironenko, Robert Thiele and Christoph Baumann, and younger up-and-comers Christopher Dupont, Gustavs Gailitis and Chris Schütz. Getting into the top 10 is no easy task!