Ski cross world champions Chris Del Bosco and Kelsey Serwa picked up where they left off last season, as the fastest ski cross racers in the world. The Canadian pair started the 2011-12 World Cup campaign Friday by winning the men’s and women’s qualification rounds in races at Innichen, Italy.
With Brady Leman, on his comeback, Dave Duncan, Marielle Thompson and Georgia Simmerling – a former alpine skier making her World Cup debut in a new sport – all finishing in the top 10, Canada is well positioned to make a push for the podium in Saturday’s World Cup opener.
“It’s always good to have a high seed going into the elimination round. I like our chances for tomorrow,” said Eric Archer, Canada’s head coach. “The results are definitely a sign that we are doing things the right way.”
Del Bosco, of Montreal, Que., raced mountain bikes this summer and is hoping all the training he did on two wheels will propel him to the over all World Cup title this season. He has been the runner-up for the past three years.
“I had a pretty clean run. I felt good in training and I’m just trying to stay with it,” said Del Bosco, who clocked a time of one minute, 2.98 seconds. “It’s a whole different ball game tomorrow but I’m pretty excited.”
The United States’ John Teller was second-fastest Friday with a time of 1:03.20, followed by Leman, of Calgary, Alta. (1:03.24), and Dave Duncan, of London, Ont. (1:03.69). Davey Barr, of Whistler, B.C., was 14th (1:04.21), while Brian Bennett, of Quesnel, B.C., was 29th.
Leman’s result, after a two-year spell on the sidelines due to injury, was a huge boost for Canadian hopes of retaining the Nations’ Cup crown as the top-performing country on the World Cup circuit.
“It was a pretty clean run – I just let the skis do the work today,” Leman said. “I’ve missed the feeling I had in the start today. I’m sure I will be a little nervous tomorrow but I’m stoked.”
Only the top 32 men qualified for Saturday’s finals. Nik Zoricic, of Toronto, Ont., was 36th, Whistler’s Stan Rey was 49th and Tristan Tafel, of Canmore, Alta., was 51st.
Serwa’s first-place finish Friday is significant. Despite having a breakout 2010-11 season, qualification was not one of the Kelowna, B.C., native’s strengths last year. “It’s nice to know I’m the fastest person on that course,” she said.
Serwa finished in 1:05.87. Switzerland’s Fanny Smith was second fastest, in 1:06.19, followed by French veteran Ophelie David, in 1:06.20. Whistler’s Thompson, the Canadian champion, was fourth in 1:06.54, while West Vancouver’s Simmerling, who skied at 27th place in the women’s Super-G at the Vancouver Olympics -- was sixth in 1:07.08. Fellow newcomer Mariannick Therer, of Saint-Sauveur, Que., was 31st and did not qualify for Saturday’s round of 16.