Top snowboarders to race for NorAm titles in Steamboat

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— Olympians Tyler Jewell and Chris Klug are expected to race in Steamboat Springs this weekend as the top American Alpine snowboarders race for national and NorAm titles in the final event of the 2010 Race to the Cup.

“We are going to have a really, really deep field,” said Jon Casson, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s snowboarding program director. “It will be all the top riders from the United States and a few from Canada.”

The Race to the Cup is a series of three NorAm (North American) Cup-level races that were held in Copper Mountain, Steamboat Springs and Mount Bachelor this winter. The finals are slated to take place Friday and Saturday at Steamboat Ski Area. The event also will provide a stage to crown the U.S. national champions in Alpine racing. The men’s and women’s winners in the parallel giant slalom and parallel slalom also will earn those crowns this weekend.

“The primary reason for scheduling this race at the ski area was the conditions,” said Rick DeVos, executive director of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. “We would have done them at Howelsen Hill, but you never know what the snow conditions are going to be like this time of year. As it turns out, they would have been fine, but this was too big an event to take a chance.”

Qualifying for the parallel giant slalom race will open the NorAm event at 10 a.m. Friday. The finals will take place at 1 p.m. Friday.

The racers will compete in the parallel slalom event on the same ski trail Saturday. Once again, qualifying will begin at 10 a.m. and will be followed by the finals at 1 p.m.

Winter Sports Club Alpine snowboarding coach Thedo Remmelink said the race course will be set from the top of the knoll on Sitz to the timing shack at the bottom. The course is shorter than the giant slalom course used for Alpine ski racing, which uses the entire hill.

“Because these are dual slalom events, we needed to shorten the course,” Remmelink said. “The entire course would have been too much for a parallel slalom, and the slalom course will be a little bit shorter.”

Casson said he expects Klug, who currently is leading the NorAm standings, to be in Steamboat Springs to try to wrap up the title. To do it, he will have to hold off hometown favorites Justin Reiter, who is in third, and Jewell, who is sixth. Casson said the races should provide an opportunity for many of the American riders to move up because a large group of the top Canadian riders have elected to skip the event in order to prepare for their own national championships, which will take place the following week.

Remmelink said the races also should provide an opportunity for several younger riders, including Mike Trapp, to close the gap on the current class of top American riders.

He also expects Steamboat riders Mimi Wiencke and Cassie Wager to be competitive in the women’s races.

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