The longest and most difficult Ice Cross Downhill track ever tripped up American Cameron Naasz in Finland and threw the world championship in a tense two-way battle. Defending champion Scott Croxall scored a gutsy victory on a night full of emotions.
JYVÄSKYLÄ-LAAJIS, Finland – Canada’s Scott Croxall scored a dramatic come-from-behind victory over Cameron Naasz at the Red Bull Crashed Ice race in Jyväskylä on Saturday to collect 1,000 points and slash the American’s overall lead in the Ice Cross Downhill World Championship to just 50 points. Naasz was hoping to clinch the title in front of an enthusiastic Finnish crowd but stumbled while in the lead in a breathtaking final and ended up fourth. Croxall, the defending champion, kept his nerve on the torturous 630-meter long ice track with its 66-meter vertical drop and deteriorating conditions for the win while Pacôme Schmitt of France got a career-best second place and Canada’s John Fisher took third.
“I told you guys I’d leave it all on the ice tonight and that’s what I did,” said an exhausted Croxall after prevailing through five rounds of action-packed racing down the longest ice track ever built in the sport’s history in a field with athletes from 19 countries. “I’m so excited that I can’t even think right now. I managed to save some gas to be able to catch Naasz in the final. My goal is to win the back-to-back world championships and I’ve still got a shot at it.”
Naasz had been unbeatable through the four earlier rounds down the track, bursting out of the starting gate and making it look almost easy down the jump and bump-filled natural ice track in the world’s fastest sport on skates where racers hit speeds of up to 80 km/h. He repeatedly mastered the treacherous BF Goodrich Rock-Drop jump to the delight of the big crowd and seemed to have no trouble with snowfall that began midway through the evening that later turned to drizzle. In the final he was once again well in front of the pack and skating on his own when he suddenly tripped on a series of bumps. He tried to bounce right back onto his feet but then fell a second time as Croxall led the pack past him. Croxall has now won four straight races in Finland — before Saturday he had won the Red Bull Crashed Ice race in Helsinki last year and the Riders Cup races last year and this year. “I love it here in Finland,” he said. “I don’t know what the secret is.”
Despite his first loss in a Red Bull Crashed Ice race this season, Naasz has won two of the three races and still leads the overall championship with 2,785 points. Croxall now has 2,735 points heading down the home stretch of the season. There are three Riders Cup races before the final Red Bull Crashed Ice race of the season in Naasz’s home town in Saint Paul, Minnesota on February 27-28.
It was a night of excitement for Finland with 15 racers reaching the round of 64, but they struggled to make to the semi-finals. Paavo Klintrup was the only Finn to reach the final eight, taking fifth place. “This was a good track for me and I had a good flow,” said Klintrup. “It helped racing in front of my home crowd. It was an advantage for me.” The difficult track caused emotions to flare with Kyle Croxall of Canada and Germany’s Fabian Mels exchanging punches in the finish area after a hard-fought quarter-final heat after they both crashed out.
In the women’s race, American Alexis Jackson won a nail-biter, coming all the way from fourth place shortly after the start to first after the leaders banged into each other. Jacqueline Legere took second place and moved back into the overall lead in front of Myriam Trepanier (CAN), who finished a disappointing ninth. “I didn’t come here expecting to win – I just came expecting to skate and have fun,” said Jackson. “Staying on your feet is important. I was the only one in the final who didn’t fall down.”
MEN: 1. Scott Croxall (CAN), 2. Pacôme Schmitt (FRA), 3. John Fisher (CAN), 4. Cameron Naasz (USA), 5. Kilian Braun (SUI), 6. Dean Moriarity (CAN), 7. Paavo Klintrup, 8. Derrek Coccimiglio (CAN), 9. Luca Dallago (AUT), 10. Reed Whiting (USA)
WOMEN: 1. Alexis Jackson (USA), 2. Jacqueline Legere (CAN), 3. Elaine Topolnisky (CAN), 4. Sydney O’Keefe (USA), 5. Camilla Ojapalo (FIN), 6. Susanna Tapani (FIN), 7. Sandrine Rangeon (FRA), 8. Amanda Trunzo (USA), 9. Myriam Trepanier (CAN), 10. Anais Morand (SUI)
Ice Cross Downhill World Championship standings:
MEN: 1. Naasz (USA) 2,785 points, 2. S. Croxall (CAN) 2,735, 3. De. Moriarity (CAN) 2,030, Luca Dallago (AUT) 1,425, 5. Tristan Dugerdil (FRA) 1,375, 6. P. Schmitt (FRA) 1,345, 7. Braun (SUI) 1,320, 8. Klintrup (FIN) 995, 9. Fisher (CAN) 960, 10. Jim De Paoli (SUI) 852.5.
WOMEN: 1. Jaqueline Legere (CAN) 2,250 points, 2. Myriam Trepanier (CAN) 2,090, 3. Elaine Topolnisky (CAN) 1,700, 4. Alexis Jackson (USA) 1,500, 5. Sydney O’Keefe (USA) 1,420