Question: Who was the best Red Bull Crashed Ice athlete in the second half of the 2016/17 season?
The surprise answer is: Dean Moriarity! The speedy Canadian took the unofficial title as the most successful racer during the second half of the Ice Cross Downhill World Championship. Moriarity was nearly unbeatable during the North American leg and scored 1,800 points out of a possible 2,000 in those two races with a victory in Saint Paul and second-place finish in Ottawa.
"No, I didn't notice that," said Moriarity of one of the sport's most interesting trivia questions. "I was just trying to do the best I could in the races I had left last season. I really just think it had a lot to do with the tracks. The last two tracks in Saint Paul and Ottawa really suited my style and that's why I did so well."
Moriarity, who is 22 years old, had finished third overall in the 2015/16 season and was hoping to move higher in 2016/17 but got off to a dismal start in the first half of the season that took place in Europe. He got just 14th place at the season opener in Marseille, France after suffering a cut in an earlier round, and was even worse at the second European stop in Jyväskylä, Finland, on a long natural ice track finishing 25th where he hit a "bad patch of ice" and crashed. But when the tour moved to North America, Moriarity got his act together with his first Red Bull Crashed Ice victory in Saint Paul, Minnesota in a thrilling race and took a close second at the season-finale at home in Ottawa to cap an amazing comeback and take fourth place overall.
That strong finish makes him one of the hot pre-season favorites to win the world championship in the 2017/18 season.
"Going into the season I knew that the first half of the season was going to be tough as the tracks are designed for gliders and are less technical," he said. "The second half was so good for me because St. Paul and Ottawa were technical and tracks that you can gain speed by taking the technical parts good as well as skating on the flat parts."
Moriarity is hoping to put it all together in 2017/18 and training hard for what he hopes will be his first world championship title. He said taking fourth overall behind champion Cameron Naasz (USA), Scott Croxall (CAN) and Maxwell Dunne (USA) last season was more satisfying than third overall the year before because the field had become so much more competitive and he scored his first Red Bull Crashed Ice win last season.
"The feeling was really insane and hard to describe," he said of his win in Saint Paul after several years of top performances in which he came close to winning a Red Bull Crashed Ice race. He was second in Quebec City in 2014/15 and second at the Saint Paul race in 2015/16. "It was a mix of emotions, I felt happy to win my first race and was so excited but I was also relieved that this 'monkey' was now off my back. Yes, it's still amazing to think about and re-watching the race never gets old."
Moriarity openly admits he tries to learn as much as he can from two-time world champion Cameron Naasz. He hosted the American for several weeks in Montreal during the final stretch of the season ahead of the Ottawa race.
"I think Cameron is someone that everyone looks to, to better themselves," said Moriarity. "If you learn from the best you become the best and eventually are able to compete with them."
Moriarity believes he may have also benefitted last season from taking part in the new Freestyle competition at the Red Bull Crashed Ice races. Even though most of the top racers opted not to take part in the competition on Friday nights to avoid injury and stay in peak condition, Moriarity thought it might help him.
"Freestyle was an interesting concept and knew that I could do some crazy stuff that would potentially grow the sport," he said, noting there were several reasons. "Also, by doing Freestyle you get some more practice time on the track, which makes you more comfortable with it. And there was also some prize money involved."
So does Moriarity think he can win the world championship?
"Yes, I feel like I could win next year. It will take some hard work in the off-season and, like always, a little luck in the races. The competition is getting more and more competitive. Everyone is training harder in the off-season to do the best they can."
He believes the next season will be even more competitive. "I think the races are going to get harder quick. Instead of the round of 16 being the start of the 'hard' races it will be the round of 32. You're going to have to train harder than the rest of the guys and be a little bit lucky."