Joy turned into heartbreak for Polaris fans and gold became silver in the blink of an eye in the snocross final at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado, on January 31. Polaris snocross racer Levi LaVallee â€“ who had led by a wide margin most of the race â€“ landed awkwardly off a jump and bounced off his sled on the final lap of the race, costing the 24-year-old racer the lead and forcing him to settle for second place behind veteran Ski-Doo racer Blair Morgan, who worked his way through the pack and was ready and waiting when Levi dismounted.
â€œLevi had a first-place sled and he had won every time he raced in the prelims, so losing the gold on the final lap after having a significant lead was really disappointing,â€ said Polaris Racing Manager Tom Rager, Sr. â€œWe tip our hats to Blair. Heâ€™s a tremendous racer and he put himself in position to take advantage if an opportunity arose, which it did. But we are extremely proud of our young racers like Levi and Ross Martin.â€
At the start of the race, LaVallee battled with Arctic Cat racer Robbie Malinoski for the holeshot. They made contact coming off a jump on an early lap and Malinoskiâ€™s sled was knocked sideways while LaVallee maintained his balance and sped off in the lead. The Polaris IQ racer carried LaVallee to a lead of as much as 13 seconds, and he lapped several racers while maintaining a solid 12-second lead.
Heading into the final lap, LaVallee still had a lead of about 7 seconds over Morgan, who slowly worked his way through the pack and was closing in on LaVallee. LaVallee landed roughly off a jump just past the start-finish line and was pitched off the right side of the seat. He was reconnecting his safety tether cord when Morgan went past.
“When I didn’t get over that double [jump] clean, it kind of threw me into the next one and completely pitched me sideways,â€ LaVallee told ESPN after the race. â€œI’m still pumped. My goal was to get on the podium, but a lap away from gold? Yeah, that’s pretty tough to swallow.”
This yearâ€™s final lasted 15 laps, up from six laps in previous years, and 12 racers were on the starting line, rather than the 10-man fields of the past. The X Games snocross was run on sleds used in Pro Open competition.