Snowboard cross World Cup circuit travels to Russia
It's the second time ever that the snowboard cross World Cup tour will make a stop in Russia when this season's fourth sbx race will be staged in Sunny Valley on February 20th and 21st, 2016.
And with a month having ticked away since the last cross World Cup took place in Feldberg, Germany the race series is back on track for an anyone's game at a brand new, purpose-built course.
Three years after the Sochi test event and two years after the 2014 Olympic Winter Games the home crowd is keen for some thrilling races again, especially as Sochi silver medallist Nikolay Olyunin (RUS) is not only still a consistent podium threat but also the current World Cup leader (2,400).
His strongest rival in the battle for the Crystal Globe is no other than the reigning Olympic champion Pierre Vaultier (FRA, 1,980) with whom Olyunin had shared the podium twice in Germany.
Alessandro Haemmerle (AUT, 1,590), winner of the first ever sbx World Cup in Russia who also prevailed in this season's opener, sits in third, however, there is no taking away from the fact that three other racers will descend on Mother Russia with a lot of self-confidence.
Aussies Jarryd Hughes and Alex Pullin as well as Konstantin Schad (GER) earned their spots on the 2016 podium at the X Games which filled out the World Cup break three weeks ago.
And while Hughes didn't have a good start into the season, two-time world champion Pullin (1,340) as well as Schad (800) are both still looking good in the race for the Crystal Globe currently sitting in a respective fourth and ninth rank.
Will Moenne Loccoz keep the momentum?
In the women's competition, it's a battle of Nelly Moenne Loccoz (FRA) against the rest.
The defending WC champion is leading the pack with 2,500 points with five more girls in position to capitalize on every tiny mistake Moenne Loccoz could make.
Michela Moioli (ITA, 1,800) has some good memories on Russia winning the Sochi test event back in 2013. Third ranked rider of the World Cup standings, X Games gold medallists and four-time world champion Lindsey Jacobellis (USA,1,750), skipped the journey to Russia and will lose some track in the race for the Globe.
But Chloe Trespeuch (FRA, 1,580), the Sochi bronze medallist as well as reigning Olympic champion Eva Samkova (CZE, 1,560) and Belle Brockhoff (AUS, 1,300) should not be counted out the title race yet.
While qualifiers are slated for Saturday, February 20th, 2016, at 10:45 AM local time (men) and 1 PM local time (women), the finals will take place on Sunday, February 21st, 2016, at 12 PM local time. The full schedule can be viewed online.