Dominique Maltais wins Snowboarder X

Dominique Maltais Wins Snowboarder X (0:58)

With Lindsey Jacobellis absent, Dominique Maltais cruised to gold. (0:58)

ASPEN, Colo. -- Canadian rider Dominique Maltais won the Women's Snowboarder X finals on Saturday at Winter X Games 2012, beating out Bulgarian rider Alexandra Jekova and Canadian rider Maelle Ricker.

Although this is her first Winter X Games medal, Maltais has been dominating the sport elsewhere: She won her second FIS World Cup title in 2011 and is known for her strength on longer courses, such as the one here at Buttermilk. She was the No. 1 qualifier headed into Saturday's competition.

"I like speed, I like the course," Maltais said after Saturday's finals. "I like long courses, especially. I really wanted to make the podium, and I'm really happy to finish on the first step."

Maltais held the lead throughout the final race, leaving a battle for second and third place between Jekova and Ricker as they left the rest of the pack behind.

"I really focused on the start first and my gliding skills," Maltais said. "I tried to keep my speed all the way down, and I looked back right at the end and thought I was pretty far in front. I'm just really happy to be here and win."

Ricker has been a Winter X Games competitor since 1999, when she won her first of two Snowboarder X gold medals, and was the 2010 Winter Olympic snowboard cross champ in Vancouver. She skipped Winter X Games that year to focus on her Olympic training and missed Winter X 2011 after breaking her hand and injuring her shoulder during the 2011 World Championships. Her return to Winter X -- and to the podium -- this year was much anticipated.

"It's tough; It's a big drafting game," said Ricker, referring to the back-and-forth battle with Jekova toward the end of the course. "It's hard work, but it's tons of fun. It's really exciting."

Check out full results from the Women's Snowboarder X finals.

Colin Bane is a freelance writer who writes for ESPN.com Action Sports.