Rob Cone went two-for-two over the World Pro Ski Tour races this weekend, extending his dominance over dual pro racing to four wins in a row, and seven of the last eight races. The Colorado Pro Open brought another great night of racing to Echo Mountain, and while Cone finds his way to the top, the competition was fierce throughout the night.
For the second night in a row, the 23 registered pro athletes qualified down to the round of 16. Most notably, River Radamus, a two-time Junior World Champion and coming off a successful World Cup season, did not make the cut. AJ Ginnis, returning to the Tour after skiing on the World Cup for Greece, delivered the fastest runs during qualifiers to restore his confidence after a few tough falls left second overall in Sunday’s Reven Cup.
Round of 16
There were no major surprises in the Round of 16, which saw Tour regulars advance, including Garret Driller, who failed to qualify to the R16 in the Reven Cup, and Simon Breitfuss-Kammerlander, the 2020 Tito’s Rookie of the Year, who had an early elimination the night before. The U.S. Ski Team’s Luke Winters, a WPST rookie, also advanced, along with Rob Cone, Michael Ankeny, Nolan Kasper and Miha Keurner.
Round of 8
The round of 8 was the catalyst for the night, with two upsets coming by way of Slovenian Miha Kuerner eliminating AJ Ginnis and Garret Driller taking down Simon Breitfuss-Kammerlander. Luke Winters national dominance in the slalom was no match for Rob Cone’s perfect start technique and ability to power through turns, even as the course was beginning to see some ruts down below. Michael Ankeny edged out his teammate Nolan Kasper to round out the competition for the semi-finals.
With four athletes in the hunt for the Colorado Pro Open title, all eyes were on Rob Cone to see if he could keep his streak alive. But first, the matchup between Driller and Kuerner proved exciting as Kuerner narrowly beat Driller in the first run, and Driller came back and advanced to the finals. Ankeny made a good run to take down Cone- which he did in last season’s Colorado Pro Open at Eldora – but Cone gathered speed in the bottom half of the course and sent Ankeny to the small final.
In Kuerner’s first appearance in a WPST podium round, he was confidant. “I made a few mistakes yesterday, but today I showed up,” said Kuerner, who also coaches for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. “I’m kind of like a Diesel engine – it just takes me a little while to warm up.” While one of the signature aspects of WPST races is that spectators can see who wins by who crosses the finish line first, the race between Ankeny and Kuerner was so close that onlookers had to wait to learn that Ankeny had come out on top, earning third place overall.
The Cone-Driller final was anxiety ridden. Each athlete totally different; Cone takes time to himself outside of the start house before each run, while Driller stays engaged with everyone around him. In the first run, Driller earned a slight advantage over Cone. Despite their varying personalities, the two competitors shared a chairlift ride back up to the top; this triggered fond memories for onlookers of historic Pro Tour greats like Billy Kidd and Spider Sabich doing the same during their races in the early 1970’s. Into the final run, Driller was on the blue course that had been giving racers difficulties over the last jump. “I thought I had it right before the second jump,” said Driller. “Then I felt my momentum go away and there was nothing I could do to make it up in those last few gates.”
In the end, Cone would take the win. “I Preferred the red course,” Cone said. “I was right on Garret during the first run, I just needed to ride it out and survive the jumps to get through on the second.” Cone finished out the night on the awards podium holding another trophy and two big checks to celebrate his wins over the course of the weekend.
1st Rob Cone
2nd Garret Driller
3rd Michael Ankeny
4th Miha Kuerner