Some of the top snowboarders in the world aren’t going to ride at the X-Nix Countdown To Gold Nokia Snowboard FIS World Cup going on at Park City, Utah this week. Why? It all has to do with the Olympic selection process that’s already underway for the 2002 Games.

Key U.S. riders, including Tommy Czeschin on the men’s side and Tricia Byrnes, Gretchen Bleiler, and Kelly Clark on the women’s side won’t be competing. Because they’ve already earned a certain amount of FIS points from good contest finishes earlier this season, the U.S. Team staff decided to pull them out of this competition to let other riders try to earn more quota.

Sound a little confusing? It is. You see, there are several parts to the U.S. Olympic snowboard team selection. First, each rider has to earn a minimum of 125 FIS points by competing and getting a decent finish at FIS-sanctioned events. Then, the U.S. riders have to earn the spots in the Olympics. There will be a total of 35 athletes competing in the men’s halfipe, and similar numbers in the women’s and men’s and women’s parallel giant slalom.

The U.S. can get up to four of these spots in each of the disciplines if they have enough points to be in the top 35 for men or 25 for women. But once an athlete has gotten a spot, he or she will only be blocking other riders from earning a quota spot that other riders could get. So someone like Czeschin, who won a World Cup last week in Japan, already has enough points to get one quota spot.

But just because a rider gets a quota spot, doesn’t mean that that they get that spot. Team selection will be made next year on a five-stop U.S. tour right before the Olympics. So Czeschin, who earned a quota spot for the U.S., has to go back and then beat the other U.S. riders to take the spot on the team.

Look for complete coverage of the World Cup on later today on transworldsnowboarding.com