Loveland, CO, Nov. 13, 2000--Erik Schlopy (Park City, UT) and SarahSchleper (Vail, CO) took first-run leads Saturday and made 'em stand-upfor a rare U.S. double victory in the opening races of the Chevy TruckSuper Series at Loveland Valley Ski Area. Schlopy tied Austrian KilianAlbrecht in the men's race while Schleper cruised to a 1.59-second win.
An overnight storm left several inches of snow on the course, which rubsup against the Continental Divide; overcast skies and temperatures in theteens greeted 124 men and nearly 100 women in the first of two SuperSeries slaloms at Loveland.
Schlopy tore through the first run more than a second ahead of the field,then overcame two serious mistakes on his second run to deadlockAlbrecht. Final time was 1:33.96 with Austrians 3-4-5. Tom Rothrock (Cashmere, WA) finished seventh with Chip Knight (New Canaan, CT)13th and Drew Thorne-Thomsen (Stratton Mountain, VT) 19th.
In the women's race, Schleper--disappointing in the World Cup season opener two weeks earlier but buoyed by strongtraining in recent days at Copper Mountain--held a .14-second lead over defending World Cup slalom champion SpelaPretnar of Slovenia after the first run. Pretnar fell early in her second run and Schleper went on to win in 1:34.19 with ChristelSaioni of France second (1:35.78). Caroline Lalive (Steamboat Springs, CO) was ninth with Kristina Koznick (Burnsville,MN) 13th.
Schlopy: "I knew I had to punch it..."
"I was inspecting the course between runs and I knew it was going to be turny at the top, especially with the tougher snowin the second run, starting 30th instead of second, and it caught me," Schlopy said. "I went off on the tips of my tails, threw'em sideways and I knew I had to punch it the rest of the way down. And then I made another mistake after that and I knew Iwas gonna have to ski well if I was gonna keep the win.
"I'm disappointed to lose a 1.2-second lead, but to still win is great. Ski well, make great recoveries and to still win is great.I'm really psyched. It's a great start ... The nerves got to me and I skied way below my level, but still pulled out a win with aWorld Cup field here, so..."
Men's SL/GS Head Coach Jesse Hunt said Schlopy's win was outstanding, but he was equally pleased with the strongshowings by Rothrock, Knight and Thorne-Thomsen against the world-class field. "It wasn't just Schlopy; it was the otherguys stepping in there as well, either having one good run or two. It was a good sign for the whole team," Hunt said.
"Erik put down an incredible first run; that was a big surprise - that he was so far ahead of the group, but he had a super,super run and he showed himself what he can do. He looked very good among a really tough field."
"Serious breakthrough" key for Schleper
A short time later, Schleper watched Pretnar take her spill "I had a serious breakthrough two days ago. I was skiing thefastest slalom I've ever had ... I knew I was fast, which was a huge confidence boost. But in the start I was so nervous, firstrun and second run, so I just closed my eyes, blocked everything out and thought about a different place and different time,and that worked," she said, catching her breath at the bottom of the run.
"I love this snow, I love this hill, this is my hill," she gushed. She smiled but declined to dwell on Coach Thomas Stauffer'scomment which helped her smoothe her technique so she could ski faster. "Sometimes you need to hear something a littledifferent and it works."
Despite the new-found confidence, Schleper conceded she surprised herself a bit. "I can't come into this race with my pastand expect to win. But after first run, I was, like, 'All right!' I was so happy and tried to think about that before I went tosecond run."
Marjan Cernigoj, U.S. women's head coach, was cautiously optimistic about the dramatic improvements from the Oct. 28opening GS in Soelden, Austria, when Schleper and Lalive struggled in their lone run. "There werre some good things andthis was a good step forward," he said. "It's only one day and we have another Sunday, so we'll see, but there weresome good things up there."
Schleper earned $1,500 with her triumph while Schlopy picked up $1,250 as he and Albrecht divided the $1,500 topprize and $1,000 second-place money. Another slalom is set for Sunday at Loveland Valley before the World Cup skiershead to Park City, Utah, for the annual Chevy Truck America's Opening races Nov. 16-19.