More than 100 of the world's best Ice Cross Downhill athletes will descend upon the French Alpine ski resort of Avoriaz on January 15/16 to battle it out for championship points at the second Riders Cup race of the 2015/16 season as the world's fastest sport on skates makes its eagerly awaited debut in France.
American Cameron Naasz will be fighting to maintain his lead in the overall championship standings against a pack of hungry challengers after he won his second Red Bull Crashed Ice race of the season in Munich, Germany on Saturday. Defending world champion Scott Croxall of Canada in second place overall, his compatriot Dean Moriarity in third and France's own Tristan Dugerdil in fourth in the standings will be looking to chip away at Naasz's lead as the season nears its midway point with 2,000 points.
Dugerdil, who comes from the nearby town of Morzine-Avoriaz, got a career-best fourth place in Munich with his first Final Four appearance in the fastest race ever when athletes hit speeds reaching over 70 km/h (43 mph) and now Dugerdil has a total of 1,010 championship points. He also had a strong third place at the first Riders Cup race of the season in December in Wagrain-Kleinarl.
"I'm doing everything I can to be in the top five this year so I'm doing my best and we'll see what happens," said Dugerdil, who was ninth overall last season and then trained hard with his compatriot Pacome Schmitt in the off-season. Schmitt is in 15th place overall with 400 points from back-to-back 13th place finishes in the first two Red Bull Crashed Ice races in Quebec City and Munich. France's local heroes should have a distinct advantage on their home track, a 320-meter run with three rollers, two step downs, one table jump and four banked turns. It was literally carved into the snow at the resort with the help of dozens of volunteers and snowcat grooming vehicles before layers of ice were added.
Located 80 kilometers east of Geneva and more than 1,800 meters high in the French Alps, Avoriaz is one of the world's biggest ski resorts and has been the final destination for a stage of the Tour de France six times. Avoriaz has a reputation of being a pioneer in Alpine skiing and had its first ski lifts in the 1930s. Training and Qualifying starts on Friday and large crowds are expected for the finals on Saturday evening – from 18:00 to 19:30 - in the completely car-free resort where the ice track runs into the center of the village. The first Ice Cross Downhill race in France has caused a buzz in the media and there will be extensive TV and media coverage as well.
The Riders Cup was created as a new feeder event to open the sport to even more competitors in more locations and the atmosphere at the race in Austria was once again phenomenal. 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.