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Alberta snow bikecross racer roars to gold medal finish at Winter X Games

Cody Matechuk, 24, is a rising star in the up and coming, adrenaline-filled sport of snow bikecross.

A hybrid of motocross and snowmobiling, 'it's definitely unique, and it's here to stay,' says Cody Matechuk

The 24-year-old snow bikecross racer just won a gold medal at the 2018 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado. 2:41

Engines rev. A neon green flag flashes. Powder kicks up, and Alberta's Cody Matechuk comes flying through the snow.

He breaks out in front, holding on for dear life, racing through metre-deep snow trenches to claim gold less than 12 minutes later at the 2018 Winter X Games.

The 24-year-old racer, originally from Cochrane, Alta., is a rising star in the up and coming, adrenaline-filled sport of snow bikecross.

After winning bronze in the sport's first X Games showing in 2017, Matechuck blazed through 20 laps at this year's event, beating second-place finisher and fellow Canadian competitor Brock Hoyer by nearly nine full seconds on Jan. 27.

Twelve racers competed at the 2018 Winter X Games bike snowcross event. (Jacquie Matechuk)

The sport, which is similar to motocross, has gained traction in recent years, Matechuk said.

But instead of regular dirt bikes, athletes ride a kind of hybrid vehicle designed to combine a bike's manouevrability with a snowmobile's winter terrain capabilities.

To compete, racers modify their regular dirt bikes by replacing the tires with a front ski and rear track system. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

The sport continues to attract some of the world's fastest, from motocross, snowmobiling and snowbiking realms, Matechuk said.

"It's definitely a mind game, but that's what we're here to do. We're here to race."

Matechuk is no stranger to high-speed, high-risk sports. The base jumper, skydiver and bull rider has been motocross racing since the tender age of 4, and he won his first national title at 14.

Cody Matechuk soars through the air on his Yamaha YZ450F outfitted with a Yeti SnowMX while racing the track at the 2018 Winter X Games. (Jacquie Matechuk)

Compared with dirt, snowy terrain presents all sorts of challenges, deteriorating much more quickly over the course of 20 laps, he said. 

"We get ruts that are a couple feet deep real quick. You can't even say ruts; these things make trenches. It's pretty crazy."

But Matechuk lives for it.

"You use that fear, and that's what keeps you alive," he said.

And as for the longevity of the sport?

"It's definitely unique, and it's here to stay."

With files from Monty Kruger