More than 50 of the world’s best snowboarders from 13 countries have arrived in Les Angles, France, for the penultimate IPC Snowboard World Cup and Europa Cup Finals beginning on Tuesday (8 March) as the season nears its climax.
It is the first time that France has staged IPC Snowboard competitions at this level and all eyes will be on their Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games silver medallist Cecile Hernandez-Cervellon.
Hernandez-Cervellon will compete in the women’s banked slalom and snowboard-cross SB-LL1, looking to defend her overall World Cup title in the classification from last season.
The Frenchwoman feels that the quality of the field is improving all the time: "The level has greatly tightened in recent months. My main opponents are Nicole Roundy [USA] and Michelle Salt [Canada].”
Roundy currently leads Hernandez-Cervellon in the points standings. Salt reached the podium three times in banked slalom and snowboard-cross at her home World Cup in Big White in February.
In the men’s SB-LL1 Dutch banked slalom and snowboard-cross world champion Chris Vos will look to continue his run of good form.
Vos is unbeaten in banked slalom in the World Cup this season and has also topped the snowboard-cross podium twice. On the other two occasions he was beaten by Austrian newcomer Reinhold Schett and the USA’s Mike Schultz, who are both in Les Angles.
The Dutch hopes continue in the women’s SB-LL2, as world and Paralympic champion Bibian Mentel-Spee edges closer to No.1 teammate Lisa Bunschoten in the overall rankings.
The US duo of Worlds medallist Heidi Jo Duce and Paralympic bronze medallist Amy Purdy will also be in the thick of the action.
All three of the top riders will compete for points in the men’s SB-LL2. Current No.1 Michael Shea, the US banked slalom world champion, will go up against Finland’s snowboard-cross world title holder Matti Suur-Hamari.
Suur-Hamari is just 400 points behind Shea and also leads the USA’s Paralympic champion Evan Strong.
Austria’s banked slalom world champion Patrick Mayrhofer has built a strong lead in the men’s SB-UL rankings, but is catchable.
Italy’s snowboard-cross world gold medallist Manuel Pozzerle is second to Mayrhofer, coming off a series of podium finishes, and will be looking to capitalise on his performances so far.
The USA’s Michael Minor has also won three World Cup banked slalom races in his debut season to put himself third in the overall points.
The women’s SB-UL field continues its development, with Argentina’s Celeste Pedroso Bersano and the Netherlands’ Renske van Beek both in Les Angles.
Competition gets underway in Les Angles on Tuesday with the Europa Cup Finals in snowboard-cross, before the World Cup on Wednesday (9 March).
The banked slalom Europa Cup Finals will then take place in Formigueres on Friday (11 March) ahead of the World Cup on Saturday (12 March).
Organisers have also planned a festival of para-sport in Les Angles and Formigueres where people can try wheelchair rugby, table tennis and visually impaired shooting. International Women’s Day will also be celebrated on Tuesday alongside events to mark six months to go until the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.