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Riha takes longboard downhill

California rider makes pass in site of the finish; Calgary's Elena Corigall top woman



For Canada's Kevin Reimer, the finish at the Whistler Longboard Festival downhill at Whistler Sliding Centre was eerily similar to last year.

He often battles California's James Kelly at events, but last year the two tangled near the bottom of the twisting access road to the Olympic venue, putting Andrew Chapman first overall.

This year the same thing happened, and once again it was the skater sitting third coming into the final corners who would go on to win the event.

If Reimer was upset to finish third behind Jimmy Riha and James Kelly he didn't show it. He was more excited to see all six skaters in the final heat cross the line on their feet, with no crashes or injuries. "When does that happen on a course like this?" he asked.

"It was really exciting," he said of the race, with Reimer and Kelly changing the lead twice on the top of the course. When they came into the corner where the contact happened last year, the setup was similar.

"He was going into that corner (and it) was a bit of a repeat of last year where he was taking a line that maybe wasn't the best one, so I tried to pass him on the inside... but we both came in with too much speed and slid out too far, and Jimmy, who was third, was able to capitalize."

Riha played it perfectly, cutting inside on a right-hand corner on a tight line that Reimer realized after the race probably favoured goofy skaters.

For Riha, who lost his sponsor before the event, it was a big win. He said he had a feeling something would go down between Reimer and Kelly, and wanted to be in position when it did.

"The lead changed a few times, there was a lot of battling back and forth and figuring out who was going to drift where, but me and James Kelly from California were both trying to get it in, and all these curbs are the same as what we race back home," he said. "You never know what's going to go down."

Riha added that he didn't have many sketchy moments in the last heat and tried hard to avoid crashing or getting caught up in the battle for the lead until he had a chance to make his move. "The battle (in the heat) was between James and Kevin, those guys are top riders."

Riha, known as Rad Train, said he doesn't have any plans for his prize money, some $3,000, but said it will go in to the bank account that he uses to travel and compete.

He doesn't have any plans to join the next stage of the International Downhill Federation's (IDF) World Cup season in Europe, but if any sponsors were interested he said he would be available to race anywhere.

Reimer was also on the fence over racing in Europe. He has the sponsorship, but wants to concentrate on his career, working for a manufacturer to design longboard trucks.

On the women's side, Calgary's Elena Corigall continued to dominate, edging out Anna O'Neill (another Albertan) and Marie Bougourd of France.

"I just like to try and not get too focused on being too competitive," said Corigall. "I just try to have a good time and skate safely. I wouldn't say conservatively, but when I'm riding I don't want to do anything that might make (another racer) crash."

Corigall is excited to see so many women joining the new World Cup tour, — the number of racers at Whistler has doubled each year — as well as for a change to the rules that lets girls race the men in the open category if they choose.

"It's awesome, there's so many more girls out, they're more skilled and people are starting to see that this is a sport for girls as well," she said. "And we can step up to open (as well) and girls are seeing that we can actually be competitive with the guys."

Corigall said there are a lot of girls downhilling these days that only need a nudge to start competing. "(Girls take) more coaxing than guys to get into it," she said. "I started with a bunch of Calgary girls that was coming out to sessions and we made our way up together. A few of us started together, we trained together and now we're here."

She does regret being on the road for the flooding in Calgary. While she was unaffected she said she would have liked to have helped with the clean-up efforts.

She'll likely get her chance as she won't be continuing on with the IDF World Cup tour as it heads to Europe for the Kozakov Challenge at the end of the month.

"Not this year, but fingers crossed for next year."

The other World Cup level event was a junior race. Alex Hannigan from Calgary was the top racer, followed by Connor Ferguson of Australia and Bryan Reich of Vernon.