Click here for a Quicktime clip of the Snowboardcross Finals.

Edging out a stacked final heat, Xavier Delerue prevailed on a warm and sunny day at Snow Summit, California to win the 2001 Vans Championships, which is the second leg of the Vans Triple Crown of Snowboarding. This was Delerue’s second win on the Triple Crown tour, which included his first-place finish at the Breckenridge leg in December.

In the final he battled a group of regulars who have all done time on the podium, including Drew Neilson, Ueli Kestenholz, Bertrand Denervaud, Phillipe Conte, and Xavier Jordon, who finished in that order. The Snowboard Cross tour has now become dominated by Europeans, with the exception of Canadian Neilson. The top Americans were in the consolation round.

Delerue pointed out the course design made riders be aggressive. “You never could go easy–you had to keep pushing it the whole way,” he said. “That was the difficult part. You couldn’t make a mistake. Phillipe Conte made a mistake earlier in the day and I made a mistake in the quarter finals, but it was so short you had to take risks the whole time, like you would normally take in just the finals. That’s what warmed me up.”

The key to his win today? “You had to have a huge start. It was important to get a good time in the time trials and get a good spot, and then go for it at the start.”

Some had criticized the course for being too straight and fast, with little opportunity to pass, but Delerue didn’t agree with that. “If you wanted to do it, you could,” he said. “When top riders got in the lead at the beginning, they have the experience to control the speed and control the other riders, which made it tougher.”

For second-place finisher Neilson, the race was enjoyable. “It was fun. Everyone was out of the gate really fast, so it was tight,” he said. “Xavier Jordon was beside Phillipe, who was beside me, and I was just a little bit ahead. Then the course pinched down and they had nowhere to go. Then it was tight around the step-up and we almost went down but held on. At the end, I went wide hoping I could pass Delerue, but he cut it tight and I couldn’t catch him.”

For fourth-place finisher Bertrand Denervaud, he was stoked on the finals as well. “It was fun,” he said. “When you start with the best guys and you have the worst lane choice, you just follow, watch, and hope you get a chance to catch them. I was hoping there would be a crash on the step-up, so I left a little room, so I wouldn’t be too close and get caught, but they all made it and then I had to play catch up. But then Phillipe and Xavier Jordon crashed at the bottom and I got fourth.”

The Snowboard Cross event definitely involved a different crowd than usually seen at big air or halfpipe competitions. With matching uniforms representing teams, the riders looked more like motocross competitors. Many of the Santa Cruz riders are now riding for a European apparel brand called US 40, and had either Limp Bizkit or Eminem logos on their pants and jerseys. The deal is with a record company to help promote the bands in Europe.

Most of the riders were going to be heading up to Canada for the next race at Mount Seymour next week.

Click here for a Quicktime clip of the Snowboardcross Finals.