Swiss Ice Cross Downhill legend Derek Wedge won the inaugural Riders Cup race on Saturday on the world's first permanent downhill ice track on a spectacularly sunny day in the Swiss Alps in front of an enthusiastic crowd watching the world's fastest sport on skates. The 2013 Ice Cross Downhill World Champion, who was also the event manager of the first race in Switzerland since Lausanne in 2013, demonstrated his mastery of the new track and managed to come out on top ahead of Marco Dallago of Austria, the 2014 world champion, and Switzerland's Jim De Paoli, who took third with American Michael Iulianello taking fourth place.
Russia's Denis Novozhilov, who was fifth on Saturday, moved into the overall Ice Cross Downhill World Championship lead with 312.5 points from the first two races of the season. Marco Dallago is second overall, while De Paoli is third.
Wedge moved into a two-way tie with American Cameron Naasz for fourth place overall in the Ice Cross Downhill Championship with 250 points earned from their respective Riders Cup race victories. The two-time world champion Naasz, who won the season opener last month in Wagrain-Kleinarl Austria, did not race on Saturday in Switzerland but was instead concentrating on the first Red Bull Crashed Ice race of the season next weekend in his hometown of Saint Paul, Minnesota, where 1,000 points will be up for grabs for the winner.
"It was tough over the last few weeks, preparing everything and getting the track ready," said Wedge. "The ice and the track were just perfect and I can´t believe that I'm first on the podium. Thanks to all my friends and helpers. This was a big step forward for Crans-Montana and the whole sport."
Switzerland's Anais Morand won the women's race, taking first ahead of Veronika Windisch of Austria and Sandrine Rangeon of France with Pauline Chappuis of Switzerland taking fourth.
"I felt very comfortable on this track," said Morand. "It is a good way for newcomers to enter the sport. I am so happy and as I am living close to Crans-Montana, a lot of my friends and family were here."
Reflecting the growing popularity of Ice Crosss Downhill, where four athletes race down an obstacle-filled ice track at speeds of up to 80 kmh with the fastest two advancing to the next round, there were 90 participants -- including 11 women -- from 14 countries at the Riders Cup race in Crans-Montana -- held some 1,500 meters high up in the Swiss Alps. The world's first permanent track with a cooling system, which is open for athletes four months each year, was relatively short at just 200 meters. It featured an 11-meter steep vertical drop in the first 80-meter-long section with an obstacle-filled section with a jump and waves highlighting the second 120-meter long section.
Crans-Montana Riders Cup results:
Men: 1. Derek WEDGE (SUI), 2. Marco DALLAGO (AUT), 3. Jim DE PAOLI (SUI), 4. Michael IULIANELLO (USA), 5. Dennis NOVOZHILOV (RUS), 6. Vaclav KOSNAR (CZE), 7. Steven COX (CAN) , 8. Shayne RENAUD (CAN), 9. Antti TOLVANEN (FIN), 10. Kilian BRAUN (SUI)
Women: 1. Anais MORAND (SUI), 2. Veronika WINDISCH (AUT), 3. Sandrine RANGEON (FRA), 4. Pauline CHAPPUIS (SUI)