[All photos: Danny Burrows]
The last day of competition at the 13th edition of the Burton European Open came to a close today here in Laax with another day of scorching bluebird and event hotter shredding as Switzerland's Iouri Podladtchikov took his first senior pipe crown and Kelly Clark made it 16 wins on the trot. Check how it went down...
As we mentioned yesterday, the usually immaculate Laax pipe was feeling the effects of the relentless solar energy that'd been pounding down all week and there were concerns that the temperatures would negatively affect the pipe finals as the walls and flatbottom got chewed up. Not so. Big props must go to the shaping crew here who were up all night and early this morning to ensure that the halfpipe lived up to the stellar level of riding the guys and girls had flaunted in the slopestyle a few days before.
The women were up first and got to enjoy the more solid conditions. All the talk before had been about if anyone would be able to interrupt Kelly Clark's freakishly long winning streak, and it turned out the answer was an emphatic 'no'. She'd recovered from her dose of the flu and sent it pretty hard in the first run to take the early lead, with Gretchen Bleiler hot on her heels. We thought of having a sneaky fiver on Gretchen, who's been riding super smooth and super tech of late, to be the one to halt the Clark procession, but sadly on her second run Bleiler caught her nose on the lip on her second hit back 9 and bounced pretty much to the flat. It was pretty brutal and she was forced to sit the final run out, but happily when we saw her at prize giving the all-American smile was back in business so hopefully she just endured a bad hipper and nothing more.
But Kelly was not holding back and in the second run improved her score with a run that broke down into the following: frontside 900 Frontside grab to Backside 540, going into a stratosphere-scratching Frontside 1080 and a Cab 720 Mute. There was never really going to be an answer to that, especially with Gretchen out. Japanese rider Yuki Furihata tried her best, but couldn't improve on her second run that had her in third, so it was the familiar sight of a Kelly Clark victory lap that rounded out the event for the females.
The men's contest had some surprises, some killer riding, and some results that weren't all that surprising. Call it an unsurprising surprise box of kerosene-fuelled awesome. There was plenty to keep the purists stoked, what with Mini's Creative Use of Space award up for grabs and we felt sure that Fredrik Austbø was a shoe in for his ballistic frontside alley-oops that had us frothing all week, but we didn't figure in Christian Haller sneaking in an alley-oop seatbelt down the bottom of his run which bagged him the 5k. Markus Malin was booting the first hit as is pretty much the norm for him but though he dropped a couple of doubles into his runs he wasn't able to repeat his first place Semis qualification, while 15-year old Tim-Kevin Ravnjak was getting jaws to drop for his monster slow spins.
Danny Davis dropped in and immediately applied his unique style to the situation, half cabbing in to cab 1080 and dropping the patented Davis dub down the line while Ryo Ayono was managing to hold on to his grabs a little better than in the semis and still maintaining the ungodly height that his runs are well known for, but ultimately these two were only good enough for 2nd and 3rd respectively. First place was all about Iouri Podladtchikov and achieving what he's threatened to do here in Laax for a while. It wasn't looking good for the recently crowned World Champion as he decked out on his back on his double McTwist in his first run, but he dusted himself down and mixed it up to take the BEO pipe crown on his second. Back to back 9s, back to back double 10s and some stuff down low that we missed as we were going nuts gave him the points that weren't to be bettered, and a clearly stoked Ipod milked the local love. ‘It was so sunny today and you can just boost,' he said. 'There is a sick crew out here, pipe held up, sick crowd and its home turf for me so I can't even talk right now, its incredible!’
And with that the BEO was a wrap. Arguably the best slopestyle contest to date, a heavy pipe final, style being thrown around like there's no tomorrow, hyped crowd, men dressed as astronauts, tropical weather and the confirmation that the BEO will stay here for another 3 years... this place and this event is the bomb so we'll see you next year. Might lay off hitting the Long Island Iced Teas so hard next time though...