The Olympian edged tour champ Rob Cone in exciting final round for inaugural win
ASPEN, Colo. – Simon Breitfuss-Kammerlander had been waiting three years to win a World Pro Ski Tour race, and on Saturday, he made it happen.
As a wet, heavy snow fell all day on Aspen Mountain, where the dual slalom action took place on the Little Nell trail, Breitfuss-Kammerlander came out with something to prove, throwing down the fastest qualifying run to start the day. The 29-year-old who has dual citizenship in Austria and Bolivia then proceeded to knock out one opponent after another, finding a gear he didn’t know he had, especially in the challenging snow conditions.
“Normally I don’t like conditions like today,” Breitfuss-Kammerlander said after the race. “I like hard, icy slopes where I can go for my line, where I know everything works good.”
Breitfuss-Kammerlander started Saturday’s round of 16 by handily beating local WPST rookie Tanner Perkins before taking down Norway’s Mathias Tefre in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, he came up against rookie sensation Drew Duffy, winner of the previous WPST race last month at Granby Ranch. Duffy, who’s revealing a true knack for building speed on the course, edged Breitfuss-Kammerlander by a little more than a tenth of a second in the first run, but the Olympian’s starting prowess shined in the second run as he launched out of the gate and sped to victory.
In the final heat, he faced two-time WPST tour champion Rob Cone and it turned out to be a showdown like none other. Both racers nailed their starts in the first run, matching turn for turn until Cone, racing on the red course, which racers agreed was the slightly faster of the two, pulled ahead for a 0.14-second lead. Although Cone capitalized on this margin in the second run, Breitfuss-Kammerlander dug deep to build speed and fired passed Cone by 0.03 seconds for the first WPST victory of his career.
“Everybody knew the red course was a little faster. I had to push and caught him just before the finish,” Breitfuss-Kammerlander said. “Of course, everybody wants to beat Rob. Rob is a great ski racer, especially in conditions like this. With the long legs, he’s always pushing the outside leg so far out of the ruts to build speed.”
Cone, who fought through a couple of close heats in the quarter- and semifinals and also made an athletic recovery after a near-crash over a jump, said that working with — and not against — the new snow on the course was the secret to success on Saturday.
“I started feeling the course,” Cone said. “Even though there were ruts and the snow was soft, you could really flex the ski at the top of the turn and release onto the flats. That was the difference maker on some of the rounds where I had tough matchups. Simon was running fast all day. He was just on it. The few turns I saw, he was doing exactly what I was trying to do – find energy in the powder and work through it.”
Having raced in every WPST event since the tour re-started in 2018, Breitfuss-Kammerlander has always been a contender. He pulled off a couple of podiums over the last two seasons and has plenty of international racing experience under his belt. He has competed in a handful of World Cup races and represented Bolivia in all disciplines at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. He’ll be competing in the Olympic super G and downhill events next month at the Beijing Games.
“I did all of the races on the Pro Tour and I was two times on the podium, but never on top. We worked so hard for it and I can’t believe I finally made it happen,” he said. “I’m so grateful.”
Saturday’s small final also proved to be a nail-biter, with Duffy going up against seasoned dual slalom racer Michael Ankeny, who fought back from a violent face plant early in the day to make up the 0.75-second maximum deficit and conquer Argentina’s Manu Martinez. He then dominated his quarterfinal round against local former World Cup racer Wiley Maple before Cone took him down in the finals. Ankeny led the small final, beating Duffy by two tenths of a second in the first run and taking a big lead out of the gate until Duffy made up lost time in the last run to round out the podium in third.
World Pro Ski Tour racing continues in Aspen on Sunday with a men’s race as well as the first women’s WPST race in nearly 20 years.
-Ski Racing Media