Dierdorff again strong at World Cup, but is it enough? | SteamboatToday.com

Dierdorff again strong at World Cup, but is it enough?

Steamboat Springs snowboard cross racer Mick Dierdorff, pictured competing in a race last season, is ranked No. 5 in the World Cup standings.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs snowboarder Mick Dierdorff is both thrilled with the way he's riding in recent World Cup competitions and can't help but wish he'd been just a little better.

Friday he laid down another strong result at a snowboard cross World Cup in what's been easily the best stretch of his career.

He was fifth at an event in Montafon, Austria. It was his third consecutive top-10 World Cup result, pretty noteworthy considering he had just three before5 this stretch.

It was also Dierdorff's third consecutive time finishing as the top American rider, a significant fact as racers scramble to make the 2018 Winter Olympics team.

"I'm feeling really good about my riding. It's at the highest level it's been at in my career," he said. "It's been a lot of fun."

Friday's result follows a ninth-place finish earlier in the week at a World Cup in Val Thorens, France, and he started the streak with a third-place finish in September at a World Cup in Cerro Catedral, Argentina.

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The Argentina race won't count as a qualifier for the U.S. Olympic Team, but the other two account for two of the five races that will be used to select what will likely be four Americans.

The only problem for Dierdorff is podium finishes are the first things officials will look at.

A fifth-place finish may be great for him, but will it be enough?

Only one teammate, Jonathan Cheever, has logged a podium finish. The rest of the U.S. team — one of the deepest, most talented in the world — is still searching.

If no others get there, Dierdorff's top-of-the-squad finishes will look great. If three others do get there in the two remaining qualifying opportunities, however, he'll be out.

"It's not hurting my cause," he said of being the United States's top finisher. "I don’t really know how the final decision will be made, but I'm not doing anything wrong. I just hope I can keep moving on and that that will be positive for the Olympics situation."

He came oh-so-close to getting there Saturday.

He qualified in 18th place, but was second in his first heat to advance to the quarterfinals, then won that heat to move to the semifinals. He was leading that pack, too, approaching the end of the course when something finally went wrong.

"It was just a quick mistake in really tough conditions. It was dumping snow and the speeds were changing all the time," he said. "I came out of the last turn and had a little wobble, so I tried to pump a roller I had been doubling, but I bounced off of it and caught an edge."

He went down in a cloud of snow and ended up in last place in the heat.

He bounced back to win the small final, the consolation race, and lock up that fifth-place spot.

"I'm still hunting that podium," he said. "I was a little bummed because I knew I could have been in the finals, but it's still been exciting and it's been a lot of fun racing.

"I feel like I'm in a good spot with the way I've been riding, but I don't know how it will play out. The best thing for me to do is to go out and keep riding my best."

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