Maxime Montaggioni’s maximum return

Four-way snowboard-cross thrills in Big White

three male Para snowboarders with Maxime Montaggioni in the middle standing on the podium with their arms around eachother Maxime Montaggioni (C) celebrates victory on his return to the slopes in Big White © • Big White 2019

Just as four-way snowboard-cross returned, so did Maxime Montaggioni. The French rider celebrated his first race in a year by winning gold at the World Cup in Big White, Canada, on Tuesday (5 February).

Montaggioni lined up against USA’s Dan Strausbaugh, and Italians Jacopo Luchini and Paolo Priolo in the men’s SB-UL big final. It was the second time this season – and second in World Para Snowboard history – that the discipline saw a four-man race.

The new format appeared no issue for last season’s overall World Cup winner, as Montaggioni finished ahead of runner-up Luchini and bronze medallist Priolo. Perhaps the 29-year-old’s familiarity with the Big White course helped, as his last competitive race was at this very course exactly a year ago, which he won.

Montaggioni’s victory on Tuesday also showed his potential to upgrade his 2017 World Championship silver medal to gold when March comes around.

Gabel’s gold

While Montaggioni waited a year to compete, the USA’s Keith Gabel wait four years for his first big taste of gold.

The men’s SB-LL2 also featured a four-way format, with Gabel beating out Canada’s Alex Massie and compatriot Zach Miller, respectively.

After silver at PyeongChang 2018 and double bronze at the last World Cup in Pyha, Finland, Gabel’s gold in Big White was a long time coming. His last World Para Snowboard victory dated back to 2015 at the US Nationals, where he also won in snowboard-cross.

Unpredictable nature

Head-to-head action brought excitement to the other three medal events, as all saw favourites falter.

France’s Cecile Hernandez got the better of her US rival Brenna Huckaby in the women’s SB-LL1. It was Hernandez’s third World Cup of the season, but Huckaby’s first, and the French rider crossed the line ahead of the reigning Paralympic and world champion.

The victory extends Hernandez’s World Cup winning streak to five.

But story was the opposite for Netherlands’ Lisa Bunschoten, who saw her winning streak on the circuit halt at four in the women’s SB-LL2.

Instead, the category had Astrid Fina Paredes enjoy a long-awaited golden taste. The Spaniard beat USA’s Brittani Coury to take home her first win since the 2016 NorAm Cup held in Big White.

Snowboard-cross also had its way of stunning in the men’s SB-LL1.

Favourites in Netherlands’ Chris Vos and USA’s Mike Schultz went head-to-head in the small final, with Schultz taking the bronze.

The big final featured Austria’s Reinhold Schett and the USA’s Noah Elliott line up, and it was Schett who completed back-to-back victories. He had won the event at the last World Cup in Pyha.

Competition returns on Thursday (7 February) with another round of snowboard-cross races.