More than 85 of the world's best Ice Cross Downhill athletes from 15 nations will gather in the Swiss Alpine ski resort of Crans-Montana on January 12/13 to battle it out for championship points at the second Riders Cup race of the 2017/18 season, as the world's fastest sport on skates returns to Switzerland the first time in five years.
The action will take place on the world's first permanent track with a cooling system, and event manager Derek Wedge, who won the 2013 Ice Cross Downhill World Championship, is thrilled that the sport will be back in Switzerland after the last Red Bull Crashed Ice race held in Lausanne in 2013.
Top contenders in this Riders Cup race down a 200-meter ice track some 1,500 meters high in the Alps will be local hero Kilian Braun, who came in third place in the first race of the season in Wagrain-Kleinarl, Austria, and Swiss compatriot Jim de Paoli, who came in fourth. Other top contenders include the 2014 championship winner Marco Dallago of Austria as well as Markus Juola of Finland. In the women's race, Switerland's Anais Morand is the pre-race favorite.
All of the racers will be chasing valuable points in the Ice Cross Downhill championship ahead of the first of four Red Bull Crashed Ice races a week later in Saint Paul, Minnesota. American Cameron Naasz, the current leader of the championship after winning the first race of the season in Wagrain-Kleinarl, won't be racing in Switzerland, so that will give other riders a chance to catch up on his head start of 250 points.
Wedge, who is also president of the Swiss Ice Cross Downhill Association, created this new Riders Cup stop in Crans-Montana on the technically demanding permanent cooled ice track that was designed to help riders from around the world to come and train for events.
"As our track is the first permanent track with cooling system in the world, it is a big step for the sport," said Wedge, who added he hoped the track will be extended to 350 meters in length next year. "We are ready for the challenge and it is going to be a crazy race."
Located in the heart of the Swiss Alps in the French-speaking part of the canton of Valais, Crans-Montana is famous for ski racing having hosted the 1987 world championships and is a frequent stop in the world cup.
The Riders Cup was introduced as a feeder event to open the sport to even more competitors in more locations and the atmosphere at the race in Swiss will be spectacular. The six Riders Cup races this season, where winners earn 250 championship points, are part of the Ice Cross Downhill World Championship alongside the four Red Bull Crashed Ice races, where winners earn 1,000 championship points. Whoever wins the most points from the three of the four Red Bull Crashed Ice events and from three of the six Riders Cup races will be crowned Ice Cross Downhill World Champion.