Jackson is king of kayak paddlecross
Vail CO, Colorado
DOWD CHUTE ” An early lead isn’t always safe in kayak paddlecross.
It’s even less safe when Eric Jackson is looming right behind.
Jackson won the Teva Games kayak paddlecross race Wednesday at Dowd Chute to defend his title and add another Teva gold to his seemingly endless collection.
After Jason Beakes edged out Jackson early on, Jackson waited back, let Beakes and Tao Berman battle it out and then made a double pass at the first of four buoys. Jackson then pushed ahead to the win while Beakes and Berman battled it out for second.
This year’s win was a bit sweeter for Jackson, who led for every second in the semifinals and finals last year.
“I would rather have won it that way, where I had to go from third to first than to lead the whole way,” Jackson said. “This (year’s race) is more what boatercross is about.”
Berman pulled in ahead of Beakes for second, while both Beakes and the other finalist Todd Baker were disqualified for missing buoys. Beakes was third by virtue of a better time trial.
At the start of the finals, Jackson was on the far left and Beakes was on the far right, with Berman and Barker in between. When the official signaled for a start, the boaters, who were floating backwards, swung around with Jackson and Beakes storming ahead.
“I was neck-and-neck with Jason and blowing out my energy,” Jackson said. “We were in a battle for the lead … and Tao was half-a-boat length behind and I decided to back off (from Jason) because I had a better position because I was on the left.”
Beakes charged ahead and Berman joined him as the two approached the first buoy.
“I wasn’t far behind, so I did the quick snake inside of them, slid my bow at their hips, knocked them into the rocks and slid past them,” Jackson said. “It was a good pass, for sure.”
Jackson had no trouble navigating the rest of the course.
“Jason and I were battling so much, that there was never really a fight for first,” Berman said. “It was a bit disappointing, but it’s the way it goes, especially in head-to-head. Head-to-head is more of spectator event, and I go into it trying to be a bit more relaxed because you’re frequently disappointed.”
Jackson, who thwarted an early pass by Pat Keller in the semifinals with his armpit of all things, had a similar assessment of boatercross.
“It’s a mental game where anything can happen,” Jackson said. “You would never try to make a living off boatercross because you get so depressed when you win the time trials, win your first heat, then get blocked, get knocked out or get disqualified.”
Sometimes you’ve got to slow down to speed up.
Nikki Kelly used an accidental traffic jam at the first buoy of the women’s race to earn a big lead she wouldn’t relinquish and pick up her second win in three years.
Kelly and Tanya Faux made a dash from the start, with Kelly edging out Faux. But Faux caught Kelly at the buoy while the two other boaters ” Shannon Carroll and Kristen Podolak ” would soon follow.
“If you spin out there, it slows (Tanya) down, and I can take off and every one else gets congested,” Kelly said. “It’s by mistake that I keep spinning there, but it actually helps.”
Kelly moved ahead alone, while Faux pulled out in second.
After another pileup, which came when Faux’s boat got caught up on the third buoy, Carroll pulled away from Faux for what looked like a sure second-place finish. On the final stretch, however, Faux charged forward through some faster water and Carroll was able to tap the finish an instant before Faux.
“I really slacked off on the finish,” Carroll said. “I pulled ahead off that fourth gate and I kind of took the slower channel, and when someone is behind you and you see that, it’s their opportunity and she definitely was charging in behind me.”
Carroll didn’t see Faux charging until the final moment.
“I wasn’t looking back,” Carroll said. “If I had to glance over my shoulder, I would have realized that she was closer than I thought. I’ve learned in the past actually not to look in back. I wanted to in the semifinals, too, but I learned that it burns time and energy.”
Kelly’s win was a bit of redemption, as she was disqualified last year, although she saw the victory as something else.
“It’s the first event. If you win the first event, everything is a bonus after that,” Kelly said. “You already have a podium. And (I’m) a bit of a Carhartt fan.”
In addition to at $1,000 cash prize, the winners received Carhartt Jackets.
Faux and Kelly had a similar traffic jam in their semifinal heat.
“It’s always hard racing against my friend Nikki because we’re pretty quick at the start line together,” Faux said.
The result was nearly identical in the semifinals, although Faux cruised the rest of the way to take second.
“We have a strategy: We just try and stay out of each other’s way,” Faux said.
Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.