Sunday, December 17, 2006
Steamboat Springs The pressure to repeat was all on Lucie Zikova at Saturday morning's slalom races at the Rocky Mountain Trophy Series Steamboat Holiday Classic.
The University of Colorado skier had the fastest first-run time of 40.55 seconds. Zikova was prepared for her second run as the final skier in the top 30 and comfortable with the Howelsen Hill course where she had secured the NCAA women's slalom title in March.
But just two skiers ahead of Zikova, the University of Denver's Claire Abbe gained the second run lead with a time 41.17.
Zikova's time of 41.89 was not enough. It ended up being Abbe who duplicated her past performances, winning the race for the second day in a row with a combined time of 1 minute, 22.19 seconds. Zikova finished second with a combined time of 1:22.44 and Summit's Katie Hartman jumped from a seventh-place first run onto the podium for third (1:23.67 combined).
"My first run was a solid run for me," Abbe said. "I knew I was a half second back. Skiing like I did on my first (run) wouldn't have cut it, so I knew I had to put it down to win - or face plant."
Abbe credited her early season success to switching to new skis as well as the coaching of former Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club coach Andy LeRoy.
"He's enthusiastic and be-
lieves in you," Abbe said. "That confidence is huge, and I can tell I'm better this fall."
Zikova noted the changes to the course and conditions between the first and second runs.
"I always like to ski here, but it's tricky because it changed so much between the first and second race," Zikova said. "It felt all right, the surface just doesn't give you great, fast, sharp turns, this morning was faster : I skied as well as I could, (Abbe) just skied faster."
No Steamboat athletes cracked the top 15 finishers on Saturday, but two skiers with Steamboat roots, DU's Lindsay McClure and CU's Lisa Perricone finished fourth and sixth, respectively.
Perricone said getting to come home, sleep in her old bed and have a pancake breakfast helped her to a pair of consistent, clean runs that meant progress for her, considering it was only her third day getting on slalom skis this season.
Five Steamboat skiers finished in the top 30, including Heidi Hillenbrand (17), Jennifer Allen (18), Lauren Brien (22), Lauren Letson (25) and Christine Roberts (26), who now races for Dartmouth.
Winter Sports Club Alpine director Chris Puckett was pleased with the competitive field and turnout.
"So many FIS races you just get a medal," Puckett said, noting the community support that enabled him to help bring in top racers with a slew of prizes and cash purses. "We had Dartmouth and all the western colleges here, Julia Littman from the U.S. Team. It's good for the kids : we're trying to make the (Steamboat Holiday) Classic a race kids will come back to."
The Steamboat Holiday Classic will continue today with two slalom races at Howelsen Hill.
The second and final men's slalom is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. with the first run. The second run is scheduled for noon.