Great Britain’s Charlotte Bankes moved one step closer to keeping her Crystal Globe trophy in Veysonnaz, Switzerland, on Thursday with her fifth FIS Snowboard Cross World Cup victory in a row.
The men’s event, meanwhile, is wide open after defending World Cup champion Martin Noerl of Germany took advantage of his faltering rivals to claim a second victory of the season and edge to the top of the rankings going into the final event of 2022/23 – a double header in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada, next week.
Five for five: form fires Bankes into World Cup driving seat
With its fast layout and 950-metre drop, Veysonnaz is a favourite among fans and competitors alike – hence this was the 16th time it had hosted a snowboard cross World Cup event. And on a still, sunny day in the Swiss Alps, it delivered again, albeit with the men’s and women’s line-ups for the Big Finals having very different feels.
While Bankes’ progress was serene, the British boarder’s only realistic rival for the Crystal Globe, Chloe Trespeuch of France, had to rely on a photo finish to squeeze through to the final women’s race of the day. They were joined by two other heavyweights, snowboard cross legend Eva Adamczykova, and this season’s breakout star, Josie Baff of Australia, who won silver behind the Czech rider at the world championships in March.
On a course known for its big drop and jump out of the starting gate, Bankes and Baff did well to stay up after the former came down on the back of the latter’s board as they landed. As a result, Bankes slipped back to third, and was forced to bide her time.
Then, on the final corner, the 27-year-old took an aggressive outside line to hit the front, and she managed to maintain her speed over the final set of rollers to take victory ahead of Adamczykova, Baff and Trespeuch respectively.
Bankes, who extended her lead over Trespeuch in the overall standings to 68 points, said: “I’m really happy. It’s been tight racing all day but that final was very, very tight – changing positions and really fighting for the same line. With Josie [Baff], I was scared that I was going to go down but we both stayed really strong to stay on our feet. Then it was just a really tight battle with loads of passing. I think it was fun to watch but it was fun to ride as well, so yeah, really happy to manage to make that pass on the last turn to come out in front.”
Noerl nudges ahead as leaders struggle
If the women’s World Cup is a two-horse race, the men’s event was blown wide open by events in Veysonnaz. With leader Lucas Eguibar (ESP) and second-placed Loan Bozzolo (FRA) failing to make it past the 1/8 final and third-placed Omar Visintin missing out on the Big Final, reigning champion Martin Noerl (GER) stood to take advantage, especially once Kalle Koblet (SUI) – an impressive winner in Sierra Nevada, Spain, earlier this week – was eliminated in the quarter-final.
And take advantage Noerl did, but not before an equally exciting men’s Big Final in which the four riders were separate by just 0.41 seconds.
The first corner was again where the drama took place, with Italy’s Lorenzo Sommariva and Eliot Grondin of Canada – both still with World Cup ambitions of their own – coming together out of the exit. Sommariva later argued that Grondin cut across his line, while the Canadian complained that the Italian held on to him as they came within inches of hitting the barrier.
Noerl took advantage to take his first World Cup victory since the opening event of the season. A surprise second went to Spain’s Alvaro Romero who did his compatriot Eguibar a huge favour by depriving other Crystal Globe contenders of valuable points.
Sommariva and Grondin finished third and fourth respectively, the result standing after the Italian was given a warning.
Noerl now leads Visintin by 39 points, with Eguibar a further nine points back. The German said: “It was very hard today, we had not a lot of time off between the runs. It’s awesome to win in Veysonnaz, it’s one of the classic World Cups for us.”
The World Cup season concludes in Mont-Saint-Anne, Canada, 24-26 March.