Sunny skies and spring-like temperatures welcomed an international field of seeded and non-seeded riders to the official start of the O’Neill Pro Freestyle in Avoriaz today.
The 2007 edition of this much-respected TTR 5 Star event on the Ticket To Ride (TTR) World Snowboard Tour kicked off proceedings with a Quarterpipe training session for all riders. Free to explore the huge ski area of Les Portes du Soleil for most of the day, riders used the evening training session to get down to business and acquaint themselves with the intimidating 22mx10mx10m Quarterpipe structure.
An impressively large crowd of revellers made the trek down to the bottom of the resort to watch riders throw themselves down the steep in-run before launching into the night air. With the majority of riders choosing to play things relatively safe in what was to be the first training session of the week, France’s Olivier Gittler and JJ Roux upped the ante and got the home crowd buzzing with styled out McTwists and 6 meter backside airs respectively. Look out for these two later on in the week, they’re already killing it.
Other highlights of the training session included the likes of seeded Olympians Gian Simmen and Janne Korpi training alongside regular amateurs hoping to make it through to the semi-finals by the end of Wednesday’s qualification heats. Fresh from his 3rd place finish at last week’s Burton European Open Halfpipe event, O’Neill team rider Korpi was clearly excited to be in town for the event, he said: “I’m really stoked to be here in Avoriaz, the set-up is sick and the Quarterpipe is already riding good. With a little more shaping of the vert tomorrow, it’s looking super-good for the contest!"
With the men’s winner picking up 850 TTR Ranking points and a cool $8,000 for his troubles, Avoriaz is preparing itself for what should be one heck of a show. As well as top international riders like Finland’s Miika Haast, Norwegian Henning Marthinson and Canadian spin-machine Marc-Andre Tarte, spectators will also witness the next generation of freestyle shredders including 12-year-old sensation Dimi de Jong. The women, meanwhile, will also be looking to step it up to claim valuable TTR ratings points and prize money, with extra motivation provided courtesy of the hundreds of cheering spectators.
The action starts for real on Wednesday morning with the women’s qualification heats going down from 9am-10am. With plenty of time scheduled for transition maintenance during the course of the day, organizers have planned the men’s qualification heats from 6.30pm-8.30pm. If you’re not lucky enough to be in Avoriaz to watch the action first hand, then do the next best thing and catch the LIVE WEBCAST of the semi-finals and finals on Friday 2nd February – from 3.30pm-7.30pm.
For more info about the O’Neill Pro Freestyle 2007: www.oneilleurope.com/profreestyle