Ice cold Finland made Scott Croxall feel right at home as the Canadian scored a badly needed Riders Cup victory on Saturday to get back into the hunt to defend his Ice Cross Downhill World Championship title. Returning to the frigid northern European country where he won two races last season en route to the overall championship, Croxall was unstoppable down the 400-meter long ice track with its 80-meter vertical drop in picking up his first victory of the 2015/16 season. His impressive win in Rautalampi lifted him into second place overall behind American Cameron Naasz, who ended up only ninth after dominating the first two Red Bull Crashed Ice races of the season.
At Saturday's Riders Cup race that marked the midway point of the biggest season in the history of the sport where riders race at speeds of up to 80 km/h down obstacle-filled ice tracks, Canada's Shayne Renaud was second with American Matt Johnson in third. By finishing only eighth after winning the last Riders Cup race in Avoriaz, France, Canada's Dean Moriarity slipped to third overall in the championship behind Naasz and Croxall. Austria's Luca Dallago was fourth on Saturday while Finland's Toni Heikkilä was fifth.
"It feels great," said Croxall, who was second to Naasz at the last Red Bull Crashed Ice race in Munich and third behind Naasz and Moriarity at the season opener in Quebec City. "I haven't won a race this year yet so it was nice to finally do that here in Finland on a great Riders Cup track." Croxall won last year's Riders Cup race and Red Bull Crashed Ice races in Finland and is looking forward to keeping his unbeaten streak in Finland intact at next weekend's Red Bull Crashed Ice race in Jyväskylä. "Anything's possible in this sport. I'm going to try to get my World Championship title back. It was tough luck for Cameron tonight here in Rautalampi. I'm going to keep hunting him."
Temperatures in Finland had plunged as far as 30 degrees below zero Celsius on Friday before "warming up" to just six degrees below zero in Saturday's race in the small town of 3,500 that is 350 kilometers north of Helsinki and 90 kilometers northeast of Jyväskylä – the venue for the next Red Bull Crashed Ice race on January 29-30.
In the woman's race, Canada's Tamara Kajah got her first win of the season with compatriot Jacqueline Legere taking second place and Finland's Susanna Tapani finishing third and Austria's Alice Zenz in fourth.
"It feels amazing," Kajah said. " I was injured in Quebec so it's nice to come back from the injury and make my way back. It feels good to make my way back," she said. "We're improving in every race. It's definitely getting more and more competitive."
The Riders Cup was created as a new feeder event to open the sport to even more competitors in more locations. The six Riders Cup races this season, where winners earn 250 championship points, are part of the Ice Cross Downhill World Championship alongside the four Red Bull Crashed Ice races, where winners earn 1,000 championship points. Whoever wins the most points Red Bull Crashed Ice events and Riders Cup races will be crowned Ice Cross Downhill World Champion.
Men's results: 1. Scott Croxall (CAN), 2. Shayne Renaud (CAN) 3. Matt Johnson (USA), 4. Luca Dallago (AUT), 5. Toni Heikkilä (FIN), 6. Maxwell Dunne (USA), 7. Richard Van Wijhe (SWE), 8. Dean Moriarity (CAN), 9 Cameron Naasz (USA), 10 Paavo Klintrup (FIN).
Women's results: 1. Tamara Kajah (CAN), 2. Jacqueline Legere (CAN) 3. Susanna Tapani (FIN), 4. Alice Zenz (AUT), 5. Sandrine Rangeon (FRA), 6. Elaine Topolnisky (USA), 7. Jaiju Ruotsalainen (FIN), 8. Sanna Kolehmainen (FIN), 9 Kristiina Komulainen (FIN). 10. Mari Koivumaa (FIN).