Steamboat snowboarder Mick Dierdorff breaks through, onto World Cup podium | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat snowboarder Mick Dierdorff breaks through, onto World Cup podium

Steamboat Springs snowboard cross racer Mick Dierdorff, pictured competing in a race last season, placed third in a World Cup event in Argentina on Sunday, the best result of his career.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs snowboarder Mick Dierdorff is riding his best at the right time, or at least close to it. Dierdorff, who's starting his eighth season racing on the snowboard cross World Cup circuit, rode to a third-place finish Sunday in a World Cup event in Cerro Catedral, Argentina.

It was the best result of his career and his first podium finish in 37 starts since 2009. He'd previously only landed three top-10 finishes, and the most recent of those came nearly 18 months ago, during the 2015-16 season.

"Honestly, it's such a relief," he said Sunday. "My riding has been at that level for a season or two, and I just didn’t make it happen in the heats, and today, everything clicked. I ran some really good races, made some good passes and it finally happened."

In an Olympic year, it's a big step for Dierdorff, though, when it comes to actually punching his ticket for the U.S. team for February's foray to Pyeongchang, South Korea, the weekend goes down a little more as "almost" than "count him in."

The U.S. team for snowboard cross will be selected based on the results from four events leading up to the Olympics. The first of those events was this weekend in Argentina, but the key event was Saturday's, where Dierdorff was a forgettable 33rd, not Sunday's, where he was a groundbreaking third.

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The remaining events are all in December, first, Dec. 13 in Val Thorens, France, then, Dec. 17 in Montafon, Austria, and finally, Dec. 22 in Cervina, Italy.

That makes the end results from the weekend somewhat complex for Dierdorff.

He’s currently ranked eighth in World Cup standings and third among U.S. competitors. He's sixth in the standings for the U.S. Olympic team, however.

Jonathan Cheever led the United States in Saturday's World Cup, the one to be used as an Olympic qualifier. He placed third on what was a strong day for U.S. riders. Hagen Kearney was fourth, Nick Baumgartner eighth, Nate Holland 10th and Senna Leith, with Dierdorff, in 33rd.

Still, there wasn't any equivocation with Dierdorff, himself. He'd been waiting for Sunday's podium finish, and he was ecstatic it finally arrived.

He'd qualified in the top 10 for World Cup events 11 times in his career, including Friday, when he was fifth. He was never able to turn that into big results in the actual races, however. Saturday was a prime example. After qualifying so strongly, he made a mistake in his first heat, "a little mental thing," he said. He was in the wrong position in a turn, handled it incorrectly and spun out, finishing fifth of the six riders.

Sunday, however, he was on fire. He won his first heat, then was second in each of the next two to make it to the finals. There, he fell behind early but tucked down tight, caught up to the field and was in position at the finish line to jut his snowboard across and edge out a competitor to take third place.

"In the finals, I probably got my worst start of the weekend. I was making moves a little too early; then, I got caught on one of the features," Dierdorff said. "I told myself I had to make up ground, so I tucked in and found an opportunity."

Now, the snowboard cross World Cup circuit will pause for several months before returning in December with a number of European dates, including three big ones that will decide the U.S. Olympic team.

"I got that first taste of the podium," Dierdorff said. "Now, I want to get back."

Steamboat’s Mancari keeps Olympic dreams alive 

On the women's side, Lindsey Jacobellis made some big progress toward securing her fourth trip to a Winter Olympics. She was second in Saturday's World Cup, then won Sunday's. Faye Gulini was fifth Saturday and seventh Sunday.

Rosina Mancari also had a strong weekend. Mancari, who trains with Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, was 12th in Saturday's Olympic qualifier event, third among Americans. She placed 11th in Sunday's event.

Jarryd Hughes, a 2014 Olympian for Australia who spent several years training in Steamboat Springs, was 15th Saturday and eighth Sunday.

Baden 11th, Gold 12th in New Zealand

The same Olympic-qualifying stakes aren't on the snowboard halfpipe and slopestyle athletes yet, though they also took part in a big Southern hemisphere event last week.

The U.S. women swept the podium in halfpipe at the Audi New Zealand Winter Games in Cardrona, New Zealand. Chloe Kim led the way. Kelly Clark was second, and Maddie Mastro was third. Steamboat Springs rider Arielle Gold couldn't advance in the qualifying round, placing 12th with a score of 64.00.

Elena Hight was ninth, Summer Fenton 19th and Zoe Kalapos 20th.

For the men, Toby Miller put up the best result, placing sixth. Chase Josey was ninth, Ben Gerguson 14th, Gabe Gerguson 29th, Danny Davis 30th, Joshua Bowman 37th and Chase Blackwell 39th.

Steamboat's top two Olympic hopefuls on the men's side, Matt Ladley and Taylor Gold, didn't compete in New Zealand.

In slopestyle, Steamboat snowboarder Nik Baden qualified third in his heat, then placed 11th in the finals.

The Olympic team for halfpipe, slopestyle and big air will be decided in four events in December and January. The first is Dec. 7 through 10 at Copper Mountain. The next is Dec. 15 through 16 at Breckenridge. The third is Jan. 10 through 13 at Snowmass and the final one is January 17 through 20 at Mammoth Mountain, California.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9.

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