Wow, there's a headline you don't see every day. This weekend saw the Dew Tour Ion Mountain Championships take place in Breckenridge, Colorado, where the huge favourite Shaun White was beaten into second place in the halfpipe by the often over-looked Greg Bretz. The last time anyone beat Shaun White in a head-to-head halfpipe comp was Danny Davis at a similar stage of the Olympic qualifying cycle back in 2010.
Despite not being part of either the FIS or the WST (or in fact, any tour in the real sense - this is now the Dew "Tour's" only snowboarding event) the contest usually attracts a pretty stellar field of riders, with a pretty healthy amount of prize money on offer.
And this year a bit of extra spice was added to the proceedings when the US Olympic authorities decided to make the event an official qualifier for the US Olympic team. As with every previous Olympics, America finds itself in the enviable position of having more talented halfpipe riders than they have spots at the games (each country is allowed a maximum of 4) so their internal team qualifiers are hard-fought events.
The double attraction of US Team Qualifying points and cold hard cash meant that all the biggest names in American snowboarding were out in force, and most of them qualified for the finals. Shaun White, Louie Vito, Scotty Lago and Danny Davis were joined on the start list by lesser known hopefuls like Benji Farrow, Taylor Gold (brother of Arielle) and Greg Bretz. Actually calling Greg unknown is perhaps a little bit harsh - he made the US halfpipe team in Vancouver and qualified for the final, finishing 12th overall. But he definitely felt like the least famous of the American quartet - the Ringo Star if you like - behind White, Lago and Vito.
The last time anyone beat Shaun White in a head-to-head halfpipe comp was Danny Davis back in 2010.
There were also few of what the American media like to call "foreign" (read: anyone who's not American or Canadian) riders in there too - iPod, Ayumu Hirano, Taku Hiraoka and Scotty James to name a few - but all eyes were really on the yanks. And in the end, with Ayumu and iPod falling on their first runs (and iPod then putting a hand down on his second run) it was the yanks who cleaned up on the podium. Just not quite in the order you might expect.
Shaun's first run had started well enough, but he stacked hard on his double McTwist 1260 attempt. Meanwhile Greg Bretz quietly snuck through and surprised everyone - not least the commentator - by earning himself a 91.40 to take the lead.
Vito threw a good (and standardly double-packed) run, but it wasn't good enough to knock Greg off the top spot. And when the second runs came round, Taylor Gold - who'd earned himself a solid 8th place with his first - stepped things up a gear, throwing in a front 12 to claim 2nd place.
Shaun of course still had a run to go, but his second included a couple of scuffed landings and fell far short of his usual precise standards, leaving him with just second place. A clearly shocked Bretz had just beaten him!
Scotty Lago managed only an 11th place after putting a hand down on his second run, while Danny Davis put down a great (and very stylish) run, that was perhaps unfairly only judged to be good enough for 7th. As Snowboarder Mag's highlights reel shows, Shaun was gracious enough in the immediate aftermath of his defeat.
He later tweeted an image of his foot in an ice-bucket, saying that a sprained ankle from his first run fall meant he'd have to pull out of slopestyle - a move we couldn't help thinking was slightly reminiscent of this...
— Shaun White (@shaun_white) December 15, 2013
But the real story of the weekend was the two new faces currently riding high in the US Olympic Team standings - could Gold push more established names out of the squad? And if Bretz can beat Shaun here, what's to stop him doing it again in Sochi? Suddenly men's halfpipe is looking like a much more interesting place...
DEW TOUR MEn's halfpipe 2013 Results
1st Greg Bretz
2nd Shaun White
3rd Taylor Gold
4th Louie Vito
5th Scotty James
6th Ayumu Hirano