Georgetown, CO, Nov. 16, 2001--Erik Schlopy, who's been bulletproof at Loveland Ski Area for two years, shook off a 10-minute course hold on his second Friday and then stormed to his fourth straight victory in a Nature Valley Alpine Cup slalom. Chip Knight (Stowe, VT), who grew up skiing with Schlopy in Stowe and Burke Mountain Academy, finished second in the World Cup-level field.
Schlopy, third in the first run -- as he was Thursday when he stormed back to the opening slalom of the season, had a two-run time of 1:42.39 with Knight timed in 1:42.75. Completing the podium was Italy's Giorgio Rocca in third with up-and-comer Tom Rothrock (Cashmere, WA) fifth in the field of 130 racers at Loveland. First-run leader Mario Matt of Austria, gold medalist in slalom last February at the 2001 World Championships in Austria, finished sixth.
Saturday, the U.S. Ski Team Gold Cup slalom for women -- with the top American earning $10,000 and an automatic spot on the 2002 Olympic Team, opens two days of Nature Valley Alpine Cup racing at Loveland. The women also will run slalom Sunday before heading to Copper Mountain, about 25 miles away, for World Cup races next Wednesday and Thursday.
Schlopy: "...nothing better..."
"There's definitely nothing better than winning two days in a row on an injected hill to boost your confidence," Schlopy said, referring to the water injection techniques used earlier in the week to stabilize conditions at Loveland. The course, he and Knight agreed, was like a World Cup run with hard, icy conditions. "It was great...again," the winner said.
"But I'm most excited because both were come from behind wins. Last year, I won the first run and kept the win each day...and this year, they were come-from-behind wins.
"My skiing and my physical conditioning are behind a little bit," Schlopy said. "My mental game's the thing keeping me going. It's totally buoyed my results. That gives me a lot of confidence because that's what I've been working on hard because I know that's what the difference will be between winning or muffing World Cups. That's what I'm really proud about
Third after the first run, close behind world slalom champion Mario Matt of Austria and then Rocca, Schlopy was stalled in the start gate as he came for his second run. He waited a minute, he said, then backed off and moved away from the start. When he came back and there still was a problem, he backed out again. He looked at Matt and Rocca, he said, and kicked back mentally.
Schlopy: "...skiing on my terms"
When he re-approached the start gate, he was ready to roll, he said. "I was skiing on my terms then," Schlopy said.
He tore through the 56-gate second run with the fastest time to overtake Knight and pick up another $1,500. Knight earned $1,000.
"It's the little things, like that 10-minute hold. How do you deal with it? A couple of years ago, I probably would've been iced. I would've iced myself," Schlopy said. "It's not an easy thing to do -- a 10-minute hold when you're in third and trying to win the race.
"I dealt with it really well."
Knight, the 1993 world junior slalom champion (and silver medalist in '94 at Whiteface Mountain outside Lake Placid, N.Y.), agreed with Schlopy: two days of rock-solid racing definitely boost one's confidence on the eve of World Cup racing.
"I got a lot of confidence competing against such good racers on a great hill. Once again," he said, "the hill was in tip-top shape. I still think I'm skiing GS better than slalom, though. I think I'm really a two-event skier. I'm really looking forward to Aspen Nov. 24-26.
"Those first World Cups are gonna be a blast."
NATURE VALLEY ALPINE CUP
Men's Slalom #2 Loveland Ski Area, CO - Nov. 16
1. Erik Schlopy, Park City, Utah, 1:42.39
2. Chip Knight, Stowe, Vt., 1:42.75
3. Giorgio Rocca, Italy, 1:42.82
4. Ivica Kostelic, Croatia, 1:43.26
5. Tom Rothrock, Cashmere, Wash., 1:43.29
6. Mario Matt, Austriaa, 1:43.49
7. Markus Larsson, Sweden, 1:43.72
8. Jean-Pierre Vidal, France, 1:43.76
9. Ole-Kristian Furuseth, Norway, 1:43.77
10. Alois Vogl, Germany, 1:43.80
Other U.S. skiers in top 25:
23. Brad Hogan, Holmes, N.Y., 1:45.66