Puckett continues skiercross hot streak
Vail CO, Colorado
BRECKENRIDGE ” Less than 20 minutes before winning his second straight Honda Ski Tour skiercross at Breckenridge, Casey Puckett figured he was out of the money.
The Aspen skier, who won the skiercross gold medal at last weekend’s X Games, wiped out along with Daron Rahlves and Roman Hofer soon after the start of the first semifinal heat.
“I’m trying to be unbeatable,” said Puckett with a laugh, referring to his recent success, which includes a victory at the Tour’s opening stop in Sun Valley, Idaho. “But when I was sliding along the snow on my face, I thought I was out. I had some luck on my side to be able to stand up out of that melee. … In the finals, I wasn’t great out of the start, but I was able to hit the trannies really well, make speed and really just sneak by those guys.”
Stanley Hayer, Enak Gavaggio and Carl Rixon were the other finalists left in Puckett’s wake.
“It would be nice to beat him, you know he’s not that good,” Hayer joked after claiming second place. “He just seems to be in the right place at the right time all the time and he’s really smart in packs. (Puckett) got really lucky on that second run when everyone went down and he got up first. It’s a luck sport and it’s skill, so it’s got a bit of both. I think that’s why it’s appealing.”
Hayer, who also finished second behind Puckett in Sun Valley last month, was fourth out of the start gate before passing two opponents on a single turn.
Hayer said it was too early in the season to go for broke, even with $25,000 on the line.
“You get a little more aggressive, but you’ve got to be smart,” he said. “You don’t want to take yourself out for two more races – that’s another 50 grand up for grabs, plus World Championships, plus I have a plane ticket that’s not refundable to Japan next week, so I have to be healthy.”
The 34-year-old Puckett weighed in on the potentially dangerous nature of skiercross.
“You want to take calculated risks, but you don’t want to give it up and you don’t want to hurt anybody either,” he said. “You don’t want to be looked at as the guy who’s taking people out without any thought to life or limb. We all want to be mindful.”
Rixon seemed pleased with his fourth-place finish given his relative inexperience.
“I’m really excited to even make the finals because of the caliber of guys here,” Rixon said. “This is only my second skiercross – every run I take I realize that I don’t know anything. … I had the hole shot out of the gate (in the finals), then the experience of these veterans just took over. I led out of the gate for maybe 100 yards and then we started making passes and it got crazy for a little while. I didn’t know if we were going to crash or come out the other side, but we all finished. It was great.”
Rixon raced in the seminal heat that included Puckett, Rahlves and Hofer.
“That was actually the most intense heat for me,” Rixon said. “Daron Rahlves has been my hero for probably the last 10 years. I raced alpine forever so he was someone I always looked up to. And Puckett of course, just being Puckett, he was also one of my coaches the last couple years in the NorAm circuit.”
Rahlves, a former member of the U.S. Ski team, appeared unsatisfied after winning the consolation heat to secure fifth place.
“It’s all about the win,” Rahlves said. “The finals are the whole thing. I’m having fun for sure, but I want to come out on top you know, battling for the win. … It’s skiercross – I haven’t quite figured out how to do it yet.”
Frisco’s Jake Fiala finished 10th overall after failing to make it out of his first-round heat, which included both Hofer and Rahlves.
Adam Boffey can be contacted at (970) 668-4634, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.