Kreischberg (Austria). The season’s third Snowboard Cross of the 2000/2001 Nokia Snowboard FIS World Cup marked the first event of the year 2001 today in Kreischberg, Austria, the venue of the 2003 FIS Snowboard World Championships. Pontus Stahlkloo from Sweden and France’s Karine Ruby both posted their second wins this season.

While a lot of ski and snowboarding resorts in Europe are suffering from the lack of snow the Kreischberg organisers managed to put a Snowboard Cross slope in place which was a bit shorter then previous ones but really fit for an exciting competition and ¿ according to the event’s motto “Beach on the Mountain” ¿ even the race track included a water slide in the lower part.

Pontus Stahlkloo proved again today why he is wearing the yellow leader bib in Snowboard Cross: The Swede already triumphed in the qualification and won each heat throughout the finals. “It looks like I’m in a good shape right now,” was his comment. “The course was shorter but it was also pretty technical with a lot of jumps and rollers and that suits me really good. I know they are going to build a new slope for the Snowboard Cross and that’s good because this one is a bit short.”

Austrian rider Alexander Koller was seventh in the qualification and made his way through the finals to meet Stahkloo, Germany’s Michael Layer and Joni Vastamäki from Finland in the final heat. There, he looked like he kind of slept through at the start but could make it up for second place finally. “I felt a bit tired after I have been sick for two days but this was not the reason for that bad start,” he said, “the start command was quick today and I just could not get used to it. Usually I’m good especially at the start but I can’t explain why it didn’t work today. I would have loved to win and Pontus increased his lead again but I’m happy with second place ¿ there’s still another chance tomorrow…”

Michael Layer from Germany finished third, his best result ever. “I made a mistake at the start,” he said, “I just wanted to take off a bit too early, hit the start gate and lost momentum to get to the first jump first. I’m happy with third since I already had some good qualifications last season but never made it to the podium.”

Joni Vastamäki from Finland upset about his fourth place finish: “It was very much about the start and it was my fault that I let Koller and Michael pass me. When we got the the narrow part I tried to pass them but the course was just too narrow.”

Stahlkloo is further leading the standings ahead of Vastamäki and Koller who moved up from 10th place today.

The womens’ race once again was Karine Ruby’s domaine. Right after the start in the final heat she was a bit behind but managed to close the gap to Austria’s Manuela Riegler and finally passed her. “I don’t know what to say,” she stated, “I just hope it stays like this for some more time… I was more confident after winning the qualification this morning but you never know. Considering the amount of snow they had they did a really good job with setting up this slope but it was very short.”

Riegler finished second. “I was going big at the jump and really spend some time in the air so I could not make up enough speed,” she said. “When someone was passing me I never thought it was Karine since she didn’t have a good start. She did great at that jump and I’m happy with second. I’m getting more used to the start again and am looking forward to attack again tomorrow.”

Her teammate Ursula Fingerlos claimed third. “I was very motivated so I honestly expected even a bit more today,” she said, “I was only three hundreds of a second behind Ruby in the qualification and knew I could do it. However, I’m glad with third ¿ further to my injury in Canada I was even lucky to be able to race today. With this result in mind I will go ‘everything or nothing’ tomorrow.” French rider Marie Laissus finished fourth.

With today’s win Ruby took the lead in the Snowboard Cross standings while Germany’s Sandra Farmand who crashed in the quarter finals dropped back to second place. Manuela Riegler moved up to third.

“Beach on the mountain” is on tonight in the huge party tent next to the slope but the riders might not be able to hang around for too long since another Snowboard Cross will be held tomorrow.