Saturday, March 29, 2014

Freeride World Tour Champions Crowned at the Xtreme Verbier

With a new coat of 50-60 cm of fresh snow, the mythical Bec des Rosses at Verbier, Switzerland, promised for an epic final competition of the Swatch Freeride World Tour 2014 by The North Face. The athletes were well prepared to take on freeriding’s most prestigious and challenging competition and charged down the intimidating 500 metre north face with power and style, as well as mental and physical strength.
After a long waiting period for the best possible weather and snow, the stars finally aligned, making for an even better show, witnessed by six thousands of cheering spectators and four thousands of viewers on the live webcast. At the end of the day winners of both the 19th edition of the legendary “Xtreme” and the 2014 Freeride World Tour Champions were crowned, a very international group of athletes.
Nerves were on high tension as several competitors in each discipline had the chance to grab the world champion title. Many minds wereset for a win and to ride the long and difficult face at their highest
level. With visual inspection only it is a huge challenge to take on such a mission on the very steep face with a gradient of 45 degrees to up to 60 degrees at the top! Despite a lot of new fresh snow it was at times affected by the wind, making the conditions variable and tricky.
First out to tackle the Bec des Rosses were the women snowboarders followed by women skiers, starting from the lookers’ right shoulder of the mountain, the “Petit Bec” (small Bec). The battle for the snowboard World Champion title was on for veteran Shannan Yates of USA and local rookie Estelle Balet (SUI). After the two favourites both took a tumble, 2013 Champion Elodie Mouthon secured the win of the day at the Xtreme Verbier with a powerful run and good air. Nonetheless, Yates had enough points to take the overall title 2014.
Austrian skier and defending Freeride World Champion Nadine Wallner, managed to hold on to the title 2014 with a second place at the “Bec” and a very consistent season. The only woman who beat her at the Xtreme Verbier was Norwegian Pia Nic Gundersen, who did it loudly. She lay down a stand out run skiing solidly in huge speed and taking a massive jump of at least 12 metres, resulting in her first victory on the tour.
The men tackled the Bec des Rosses from the very top, starting with the snowboarders. Defending World Champion Ralph Backstrom, rode the mighty face in true “Backstrom style” with big jumps and fluid charging, and scored a second consecutive win at the Xtreme. When the final results unfolded a new Freeride World Champion was crowned, local Swiss rider Emilien Badoux, who had a strong season with three podiums at five events, including a win at Chamonix, France. Badoux was very emotional and proud to be the first ever Swiss Snowboard Freeride World Champion.
The 15 men skiers wrapped up the grande finale of 2014 with an incredible show. One of the favourites on the Bec des Rosses, the solid Swede Reine Barkered, did it again and repeated his win from 2012. The former World Champion (2012) skied the intimidating face so confident and composed, he made it look easy! His signature style with fast technical riding and perfectly landing huge airs, paid off and made it hard for the other skiers to beat his high score of 93.25 points.
All eyes were on rookie Loïc Collomb-Patton of La Clusaz, France, having the biggest chance to grab the World Champion title coming in to Verbier. Collomb-Patton lead the rankings since the first competition in Courmayeur, Italy and on his first ever run on the Bec des Rosses he proved why he is worthy the 2014 title, finishing off big mountain charging with a an impressive 360 (full rotation) off a big cliff, putting him in third place of the day and a very good position to win the overall Freeride World Tour title his first year on the tour.
Nicolas Hale-Woods, FWT General Manager Europe concludes the Swatch Freeride World Tour by The North Face 2014: "Finishing off the Freeride World Tour with the awesome finals in Verbier was a perfect ending to a roller coaster season with a lot of changes of competition faces and even an event cancellation. But in freeriding it all comes down to adapting and playing with the elements of nature. Despite the difficult winter the FWT had five successful events, showcasing progression of the sport. The riders have been pushing the boundaries and the level is higher than ever. The ever-growing fans, the huge popularity of the qualifier (FWQ) and junior (JFT) events, the impressive performances of the athletes, and the vast media interest proves that freeriding is more attractive than ever and that the FWT pyramidal system is working well and looking even more promising for coming seasons".

Freeride World Tour Champions 2014:

Ski Men: Loïc Collomb-Patton FRA
Snowboard Men: Emilien Badoux SUI
Ski Women: Nadine Wallner AUT
Snowboard Women: Shannan Yates USA

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