Eagle Vail’s Del Bosco ready to fly higher | VailDaily.com

Eagle Vail’s Del Bosco ready to fly higher

** CORRECTS BYLINE CREDIT TO DARRYL DYCK FROM PAUL CHIASSON ** Christopher Del Bosco, of Canada, celebrates after winning the Ski Cross Grand Prix at Cypress Mountain on Friday, Feb. 6, 2009, in West Vancouver, British Columbia. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Darryl Dyck)

Chris Del Bosco finally got the flu last week.

Given that the 27-year-old skicross athlete has spent a good portion of the last three months taking airplanes al over the world, not to mention that his sport can be is inherently hazardous to anyone’s health, he was OK with it.

“I think it’s pretty funny,” Del Bosco said. “Actually, I got it (Thursday). I was pretty lucky to make it through the year without any injuries and illness. I’ve been pretty healthy. A little cold now is OK.”

That “a little cold” is about the worst thing that happened to him during the 2009 season is an indication of what type of year Del Bosco has had. The Vail Valley native, in his second full season on the World Cup skicross tour, had a breakout year finishing second in the world in the discipline, picking up the first four podiums of his career, including his first win in Cypress Mountain, British Columbia, the site of the sport’s debut in the Winter Olympics next year.

“It was a great season,” Del Bosco said. “I’m headed in the right direction and I know what I need to do for my ultimate goal. I just started this two years ago, but I’m steadily building. I’m happy where I’m at now, but I still have a long ways to go.”

Getting a taste

Del Bosco, who has dual American-Canadian citizenship, and has been competing with Canadian National Skicross Team, started to get a taste of success in 2008, cracking the top 10 at races and finishing sixth in the standings.

More importantly, he got his first professional win last March in a Jeep King of the Mountain event in Sun Valley, Idaho. That reinforced the offseason work Del Bosco had already done and motivated him to do more.

Canadian Skicross head coach Eric Archer, and his pupil agrees, that offseason work was the key to success this winter.

“It’s been the time in the gym,” Archer said. “In the past, Chris has just gotten by by being a natural athlete. He never had been forced to work hard. Now that he’s going against the best in the world, he’s realizing how much of a benefit it’s been.”

Del Bosco, who used to race mountain bikes competitively during the summer, instead hit the weight room four times per week with Ski and Snowboard Club Vail’s John Cole. Last summer, he also logged 50-plus days on skis between Canadian glaciers and Australia.

And this led not only to podiums in 2009, but consistency in a sport which can be described best as chaotic. Del Bosco cracked the top 10 in eight of 10 World Cup events this year ” 18th in Myrkdalen-Voss, Norway, and 19th in Flaine, France, were the exceptions.

Del Bosco broke through with silver in Les Contamines, France, on Jan. 10, and less than a month later, he had his first World Cup win at Cypress Mountain, leading a Canadian sweep of the podium. Two more second-place finishes followed in Branaes, Sweden, and Meiringen, Switzerland.

Del Bosco got within 44 points of the Czech Republic’s Tomas Kraus, before the latter won the final race of the season in La Plagne, France, to clinch the skicross title, 574-462.

Traveling man

As opposed to the alpine World Cup which starts in October and runs through March, skicross is jammed into a three-month season, starting in January. The schedule, just as the racing itself, requires quick adaptation.

“February 11th, I left Sweden, and went to Norway to race,” Del Bosco said. “Then I went to Japan for Worlds (fourth place). Then I raced in Switzerland, drove to France went back to Zurich and flew to Calgary (Alberta) for Canadian Nationals and then went to Vancouver for some media stuff.”

For those scoring at home, all this happened in about five weeks. Del Bosco says he doesn’t suffer too much from jet lag and tried to use the travel time as well as the treasured occasional day off to rest, understandably zoning out with a movie or two.

And while it doesn’t look like it when Del Bosco and as many of five other racers come barreling down a course, there is a plan. Just as he shows flexibility dealing with the travel, Del Bosco uses it in races.

Racers will get about five training runs on the course, and Del Bosco uses them to scope out the spots where he thinks he’ll be able to pick up speed and snag opponents. He also works with his Canadian teammates.

But after that, he likes to keep it simple.

“I may just listen to some hip-hop and kind of go through my training runs, and different options” he said. “But once I get into the (starting) gate, I’m pretty calm. I don’t want much in my head. There are so many different variables. When the gate drops, I turn it off, and rely on instinct and training.”

Vancouver 2010

Del Bosco’s stop for “media stuff” in Vancouver is part of the build-up to net year’s Winter Olympic Games, where skicross is a medal sport for the first time. While the sport barely registers a blip on American television, usually the X Games in Aspen, Canadian TV broadcast all 10 skicross events back to the Great White North.

The hype is building. In fact, Del Bosco has done an ad for CTV’s “I Believe” campaign. (You can find it on You Tube by typing in “Chris Del Bosco 2010.”) While Del Bosco is trying to approach the Games as “just another race,” there is the reality that it is anything but.

Along those lines, Archer and Del Bosco are working together to keep focused on the here and now. Del Bosco is going back up to Whistler, British Columbia, for a week of skiing, later this month and the two will nail down the details of their schedule through the season of 2010 soon.

Nevertheless, the opportunities of competing in the Olympics and representing a new sport are exciting.

“The remaining goal is down the road,” Del Bosco said. “A lot of things can happen. I’ve just got to take each little step towards it and not look too far down the road and see what happens.”

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.

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