One of the best rivalries in women's snowboarding sprang to life in the Breckenridge halfpipe Saturday, as veteran U.S. stars Kelly Clark and Gretchen Bleiler finished within a point of each other in the opening Dew Tour final.
But in the end, just as she did last weekend at the U.S. Grand Prix and at most of the competitions last winter, Clark won. Her score of 91.25 was a whisker better than Bleiler's 90.25, a reflection of the eerily similar performances each laid down under bluebird skies.
"I think we're both putting down technical runs and pushing ourselves, and I think with the level we're both riding at it's going to be a really great season because we're just going to build on it from here on out," Clark said.
Clark was sitting in fifth place going into her final run, which she punctuated with a huge frontside 900 on her penultimate hit. After her score had been announced, Bleiler and Clark hugged at the base of the pipe.
Clark's trick succession went like this: frontside inverted 7 (the first time she'd thrown it in competition), cab 7, front 5, back 5, front 9, backside air. It wasn't all that different from Bleiler's, which included a Crippler, back 9, front cork 7, cab 7, straight air, back 5.
"I'm bummed," Bleiler said. "We're only a point away, it was so close, but it'll just fuel the fire to work that much harder so it's not so close next time."
Eighteen-year-old Xuetong Cai, perhaps the most promising female pipe rider ever to come out of China, finished third with an 85.