Debut of snowboard-cross head-to-head to take place at world cup in Aspen, Colorado

By International Paralympic Committee | Jan. 09, 2015, 4:30 p.m. (ET)
Mike Shea, Evan Strong and Keith Gabel swept the men's snowboarding medals at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games
Mike Shea (left), Evan Strong and Keith Gabel swept the medals in the men's snowboard-cross competition at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.

The debut of the new head-to-head format for snowboard-cross will attract all six Paralympic medalists to the slopes of Aspen, Colorado, for the IPC Alpine Skiing Para-Snowboard World Cup from Monday. The event is supported by The Hartford.

Riders will race two-by-two after an initial qualification round making the cross competitions more attractive for fans. It has also been welcomed by athletes, who are gearing up for the 2015 IPC Para-Snowboard World Championships in La Molina, Spain, from Feb. 23-28.

"The new bordercross format is sure to make for some exciting racing," said Team USA's Mike Shea, Sochi 2014 silver medalist." The sport is moving in the direction that the riders want, and the fans are sure to get enjoyment out of head-to-head racing this year.

"It changes the entire dynamic of our sport and now there's a whole new element of strategy that will need to take place to be a successful boardercross rider."

Shea will be joined in the men's SB-LL2 by his teammates, Sochi 2014 gold medalist Evan Strong and bronze medalist Keith Gabel. They will compete in head-to-head and the original time-trial format.

The women's SB-LL2 will see Dutch Paralympic champion Bibian Mentel-Spee try to remain undefeated. Also set to compete is American Nicole Roundy, who will face French Sochi silver medalist Cecile Hernandez-Cervellon in the women's SB-LL1. Roundy believes the home snow could provide an advantage.

"Every competition is different, every course is different and everyone has an advantage at one point or another," Roundy said. "I like North American events because I can avoid factors such as jetlag and major diet changes. It also helps when an event is held in a venue I'm familiar with, like Aspen. Every factor, no matter how minor, can affect your result. The less you have to deal with, the more energy and focus you can put into your performance."

Entering the men's SB-LL1 after winning the first banked slalom gold at the World Cup in Landgraaf, the Netherlands, in November, is American Mike Schultz who begins a busy month.

"It's always easier competing on your home turf since you're typically more comfortable with your surroundings and the people that can attend like family and friends," Schultz, who is only in his first competitive season, said.  "Aspen is going to be my second home for the month of January! First we have the World Cup and then a week-and-a-half later we'll be at the Winter X Games. I'll be competing in the adaptive boarder-cross and adaptive snow-cross.  It's going to be a fun month!"

In the men's upper-limb impairment races Italy's Roberto Cavicchi, the overall third place finisher from the 2013-14 World Cup, will enter alongside all three Landgraaf banked slalom podium finishers. Austrian Patrick Mayrhofer, Great Britain's Ben Moore and Italian Manuel Pozzerle will test themselves in snowboard-cross for the first time in 2014-15.

Competition begins in Aspen with time-trial on Monday, continuing with head-to-head on Tuesday. Around 50 riders from 11 countries are scheduled to compete.

Full results will be available at http://www.paralympic.org/snowboard/calendar, and photos at www.flickr.com/photos/paralympic/.

For competitions in 2014-15, the lower-limb impairment classification has been split into two categories - one for athletes with an impairment in one or two legs or with less activity limitation (SB-LL2), and one for athletes with a significant impairment in one leg or a significant combined impairment in both legs (SB-LL1).