Aspen boarder Chris Klug tops podium
Vail CO, Colorado
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Aspen’s Chris Klug clears a gate during Friday’s NorAm giant slalom at Copper Mountain. Klug finished first, then took third in Friday’s slalom. (Courtesy Chris Klug)
COPPER MOUNTAIN, Colo. ” Chris Klug should consider calling Copper his home mountain from now on.
The Aspen snowboarder gave himself an early birthday present Thursday, besting a field of North America’s finest to win Thursday’s NorAm giant slalom at the Summit Country resort. The 34-year-old, who turns 35 Sunday, found the podium once more Friday, taking third in the slalom.
He’s won seven times at Copper, including twice in November 2005.
“I’ve had good luck racing there in the past decade,” Klug said Friday from Denver. “I’ve had some great training, I’m dialing it in and feeling strong.”
Klug broke his ankle during training in Oregon in August 2006 and struggled to find his stride early last season because of minimal on-snow training. While he never cracked the top 10 on the World Cup circuit, Klug finished strong, winning his seventh and eighth national titles at the U.S. Championships at Alberta’s Sunshine Village in late March.
The 2002 Olympic parallel giant slalom bronze medalist is healthy entering this season. It showed in the first of two runs in Thursday’s giant slalom – he bested the field by nearly a half-second.
The event was originally scheduled as a PGS, but was changed to a giant slalom late because of scant snow coverage. Softball-sized rocks covered much of Ptarmigan, the typical run used for the NorAm, forcing organizers to change the venue. Klug was hardly fazed; he negotiated a longer course with multiple terrain changes, posting the day’s two fastest times.
He beat out friend Jasey Jay Anderson of Canada by one-hundredth of a second in the second run to post a combined time of 1 minute, 37.71 seconds.
“I was telling my coach that, sometimes after you get a good lead on the first run, you kind of ride a little bit safe in the second even though you don’t mean to,” Klug said. “I was still tops on both runs, so I was happy about that.”
Klug said he struggled to find his rhythm on a tight section of eight to 10 gates at the top of the slalom on his first run Friday. He rebounded through the middle and bottom sections and tied for second.
He took third on his second run and wound up with bronze.
“I don’t think I had my best day, but to still be on the podium is pretty encouraging,” Klug said. “Anybody who’s anybody in alpine riding in North America was here, so that’s one thing I’m proud of.”
Klug finished 11th in the season-opening World Cup parallel slalom Oct. 12 in Landgraaf, Netherlands, then took 18th in parallel giant slalom in Soelden, Austria.
Now, in the early stages of his 17th competitive season, Klug said last season’s struggles are behind him. He’s finding his stride.
“I had so many struggles. I switched equipment after 15 years, and I broke my ankle. I sort of hobbled into the season,” he said. “I got my act together. … I’m healthy and I still feel like I’m getting better. I’m enjoying it so far, which, for me, is the most important thing.”
Klug is slated to spend the next two weeks in the valley. He’ll celebrate his birthday and Thanksgiving with friends, train – maybe on his bike instead of his board – then participate in the Summit for Life uphill Dec. 1 on Aspen Mountain.
The World Cup season hits its stride Dec. 8 with two PGS races in Limone Piemonte, Italy. Klug said he wouldn’t be surprised if one or two members of a deep, talented American squad reach the podium in Italy.
Will it be him?
“That’s the plan,” Klug said.
Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is email@example.com