Veteran World Pro Ski Tour racer and former U.S. Ski Team member, Michael Ankeny, took his first pro win over Robert Cone in the Colorado Pro Open at Eldora Mountain. Lots of excitement surrounded the course despite high winds that caused postponements and weather delays over both days of scheduled racing. Ultimately, qualifications through finals were held on Saturday, January 18th in front of a crowd of boisterous fans who were thrilled with the drama and surprises that are unique to the dual racing format.
Big surprises began in the Round of 32, where 2019 Tour Champion, Phil Brown and two-time Olympic gold medalist and five-time World Champion, Ted Ligety, were both blocked from advancing in competition. “It was a fun day, but it’s always tough to lose in the first round by a hundredth,” said Ligety. “I barged a gate and it was too much to make up for on a short, fast course.”
Ligety was upset by University of Colorado Ski Team member, Max Bervy, while Brown was defeated by Bervy’s teammate, Teddy Takki. Bervy and Takki were two of four current CU Buffalos to advance to the Round of 16, including Joey Young and Jack Schibli. The Eldora crowd showed their enthusiasm for the athletes racing on their home mountain in the unique WPST dual format, which included three jumps and technical turns on a course that was packed and fast.
Ultimately, the top four skiers brought the fiercest competition of the day, with photo finishes and advances that came down to one-thousandth-of-second advantages. In the small final, Alex Leever took the first run, and was neck and neck with Nolan Kasper when he hit the lip of the last jump and lost his edge. In the first run of the large final, Michael Ankeny narrowly beat current Tour leader, Robert Cone by 7 one-thousandths of a second, and was able to maintain his slight lead in the second run.
“Everyone has joked about it, but it’s true; I was always a bridesmaid and never a bride,” Ankeny said about his first WPST win. “I really felt the energy of the crowd and the other athletes today, and it was something I was able to harness and use to take the win.”
As the Tour heads to Waterville Valley for the next stop March 14-15, 2020, the athletes are excited and feeling the pressure. Rob Cone wants to continue his quest for the Overall title, while the course favors Ankeny, who currently works on Wall Street, for more victories. In 2015, Ankeny won both the NorAm Slalom title and the NorAm Overall title, and both wins came down to the final race of the season, at Waterville Valley.