Monday, 14 March 2005
February 2005 – after a year's break caused by bad weather, the third annual freeride ski race, previously called Jasnaadrenalin, took place on the wildest slope in the Low Tatras – Luková kotlina. The whole race was taken under the wing of a professional team of organisers, international competitors took part and there were prestigious prizes for the winners – places in the Red Bull Snowthrill Monte Rosa race in Italy. So the Jasná race was a qualifier … the Red Bull Snowthrill Qualification on Jasna.
Where It Was
Chopok and the nearby ridges are one of the best locations in the Low Tatras for freeriding, as there are countless opportunities for those who are just starting to ski off marked tracks and for complete freaks to whom the steepest rocks seem too flat. Luková kotlina starts around 100m from the last stop of the ski-lift and, depending on the route they choose, skiers can take a freeride of up to five hundred meters full off rock ridges, overhangs and snow banks. The start is at 2,000m above sea level and the finish is 320m lower, which, given a slope of 42 degrees, meets the criteria for an international "big mountain" race.
Qualification on Friday, the final on Saturday and the prize giving in the evening. That was the schedule. Unfortunately, mother nature doesn't take orders and it snowed for several days before the start of the qualifier. A day before the planned races, the Mountain Rescue Service did not recommend racing, due to the unstable surface and the danger of avalanches. Within a couple of hours we had to arrange a check on the slope and test avalanche blasts were carried out; they showed that the slope was OK for the race, which nothing now prevented. By this time, however, it was Friday evening and the organising committee decided to move qualification to the Saturday. The final would be on the same day, providing everything went smoothly.
Sunshine from the early morning gave us hope that Saturday would be D Day. All 41 registered men and 6 registered women from nine countries met at the start for the briefing and the beginning of training rides. The almost ideal weather challenged everyone to give of their best. "Some decided to play safe, others took risks, which didn't always pay off," said race co-organiser Jana Šedová. A clear example of the second group was the Norwegian rider Even Ofstad, who skied a sample route in perfect style until he decided to overcome a 25-metre rock with a drop. Controlled flight was followed by uncontrolled fall, but the Norwegian only injured his leg. It was a risk that didn't pay off – he could have had a podium finish, but ended up seventeenth. The qualifiers were won by a trio of favourites, who built up a significant points advantage over their competitors, and it seemed clear who would be fighting for the medals and victory in the race on Sunday – would it be Robin Kaleta from the Czech Republic or one of the two Swedish riders Tommy Sundröm and Bjorn Lundström?
The six riders in the female category were all guaranteed to progress to the final, so they tried to achieve the best placing they could in qualification. The next day this would guarantee them an ideal trail on the ride that would be the decider. As we later found out, the order in the qualifiers was really important
If ever there was an "unlucky day", then it was Sunday. The sun kissed the mountain ridges in the early morning, but as the start time approached, it hid deeper and deeper behind the clouds and fog, until it was gone completely. The diffuse light and strong wind made it very clear that the race was over. The start was first moved to eleven o'clock and then to twelve o'clock, but the chances of the weather improving in the next few hours were minimal and the finals day was cancelled. The winner and the other two medal winners were the first three from the qualifiers.
Final results of the Red Bull Snowthrill Qualification on Jasná 2005:
1st Robin Kaleta, Czech Republic
2nd – 3rd Tommy Sundstrom, Sweden
2nd – 3rd Bjorn Lundstrom, Sweden
1st Christine Huber, Austria
2nd Míša Krickova, Czech Republic
3rd Sabina Kaletova, Czech Republic
In addition to the financial rewards and material prizes from the race partners, the winner and the best Slovak rider automatically obtained a place on the starting grid of a qualifier at the Red Bull Snowthrill Monte Rosa 2005. As this race was cancelled due to a lack of snow, the prize remains valid for 2006.