MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The first Ice Cross Downhill event of the season kicks off this weekend at the Riders Cup at Afton Alps, with a track built by the athletes, for the athletes.

Athletes have a chance to qualify for the upcoming Red Bull Crashed Ice competition and spectators get a whole new experience.

In 2014, Ice Cross Downhill doubled in size, so the competitions are growing, too.

The Riders Cup is adding four races around the world, starting at Afton Alps this Sunday.

“We’re very motivated to see this sport grow,” Reed Whiting, a producer at Tumblereed Productions, said.

Two dozen athletes flew in early from all over the world to help build the track.

“We put a lot of hard work, grind, blood, sweat and tears into this,” Doug Hughes, an athlete from St. Paul, said.

“You’ve got all these guys taking time off work,” Whiting said. “Time away from their families to come out here and work until midnight , one in the morning with big fire hoses along the hill, shaping with shovels.”

“We got to build the course, so we picked all the features,” said Dylan Moriarity, an athlete from Canada. “The end result is a crazy track with a lot of great features.”

Perhaps the craziest is the final jump.

“That’s the biggest jump that’s ever been built before in Ice Cross,” Whiting said.

It’s leading the way to even bigger things for the sport.

“The first time I flew down this thing I got these butterflies,” Whiting said. “It was the first time I really felt how strongly this sport can grow. For the first time I had full belief that this sport is going to be in the Olympics someday.”

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