Like every year Kozakov actually starts one day before the practice days (for riders only) starts on Wednesday. The Tuesday is known as the so-called "Tuesday freeride" and gives riders and non-riders the option to smash the hill on an extra freeride day.
The Wednesday is the first 'official' day of the event, which is for IDF riders only and is meant as a practice day. The weather was awesome again and riders bombed the hill managing to do a total of 15 runs, including an ambulance call for Tanner Morelock who got into a nasty crash in the first corner, dislocating his hip and breaking his femer.
He was whisked to the hospital where he would undergo two surgeries in the next 2 days. Right now he's back home, on crutches and he has some physical therapy ahead of him. We wish him all the best with this process.
Qualifying was the next day. With the use of transponders riders were sent down one at a time, to set a time which would seed them in the A, B or C-bracket. Whereas the system gave issues last year, this year it worked perfectly and as expected, apart from a mishab of yours truely during the first run.
This year more speed suits could be seen on quali (or finals) day. Brazillian riders Thiago Gomes Lessa and Bruno Olivier Vieira used one, but also lugers Ryan Farmer, Will Stephenson and Mikel Echegaray-Diez wore one although it didn't help Mikel in beating his fastest time of last year. He did set the fastest qualifying time (as always) with 2:16,045 but missed 4/100th of a second to break last year's time which was 2:16,005.
The Friday was the day for the brackets B and C, but the schedule had to be postponed slightly because of a patchy track from the rain, which fell the night before. Luckily the sun was shining bright and after an hour the track was dry and C-bracket started. Riders gave it their best and it was on. The C-bracket was one for 64 riders, so after 5 rounds 4 winners advanced to B-bracket; Sawyer Kulman, Till Heiden, Lisa Peters and Uldis Tretmanis.
These 4 immediately started in Bracket B and another 5 rounds were scheduled. Now the game was on, because the final 5 riders would earn a spot in the 'coveted' A-bracket, which gave each rider a shot for the final. After 5 rounds without any incidents 5 names remained; Nicolas Desmarais, Zak Mills-Goodwin, Linus Brundin, Germain Dageville and Gerardo Moreno (winner consi). With these 5 names, the A-bracket was complete and riders could see who their up against, plotting their strategy to advance as far as possible.
The final day had a clear blue sky and lots of sunshine. The first corner was filled with lots of visitors so the ingredients for a spectacular race were all there. Several riders commented that the skill level had gone up this year.
Emily Pross qualified 23rd in open and she was gunning for another podium spot (like in Mexico), but the riders field was twice as big and twice as good and she was knocked out in round 1 by Adam Westfall and Marc Escoda (who was killing it in his heats).
A few rounds later she won the women category for the 3rd time in a row, which is definetely a first. The women field was big this year. It was probably event the first time a 32-(wo)man bracket was used.
12 juniors appeared at the Kozakov start line this year. 3 rounds of racing, with 1 (valid) protest in the semis, which made Taylor Cook advance instead of Bruno Olivier Vieira. Taylor took advantage of this and took 2nd place in the finals, which increases his lead slightly on Bruno in the global ranking.
One name which stood out was Tristan Cardillo's, the junior from Switzerland. He made quite the impression on King's Gate (2x podium) and here he qualified 5th with 2:21,421. Unfortunately he got eliminated in the second round by Kyle Connelly and Aaron Hampshire, but he still managed to win juniors; his 3rd podium this Eurotour.
The masters class (35+) is a category that will see more growth in the coming years. Last year's winner Pavel Zajic and Scott Lembach qualified in A-bracket, but had to give the win to Nicolas Desmarais (qualified 71st) who managed to race his way into A-bracket before getting knocked out in the first round by young gun Tristan Cardillo and Aaron Hampshire.
The luge results have been fairly similar in the past years. Mikel is the undisputed winner on this track, followed by Abdil Mahdzan, but this year they got more competition from 'rookies' Ryan Farmer and Andrej Ilic. The both did a hell of a job and they'll give Mikel and Abdil a run for their money in the years to come.
In open it was a close race. The finalists of the A-bracket were 2016 World Champion Carlos Paixao, 2011 World Champion Patrick Switzer, Thiago Gomes Lessa and Brennan Bast. Carlos took the lead and kept it all the way through the forest but got overtaken by Thiago who finished first, followed by Brennan, Carlos and Patrick close behind.
The tent filled up at night for the awards ceremony and after the official part, the party was on... And on... and on... Around 7 in the morning it was finally enough and Kozakov was over. It was a success and we can't wait to see you at the 10th anniversary next year.
1. Thiago Gomes Lessa
2. Brennan Bast
3. Carlos Paixao
4. Patrick Switzer
1. Emily Pross
2. Melissa Brogni
3. Cassandra Duchesne
4. Anne Poursin
1. Tristan Cardillo
2. Taylor Cook
3. Pedro Oliver
4. Nicolay Keller
1. Nicolas Desmarais
2. Pavel Zajic
3. Scott Lembach
4. Luis Garcia
1. Mikel Echegaray-Diez
2. Abdil Mahdzan
3. Ryan Farmer
4. Andrej Ilic
Photo credit: Lada Nayevo