American Cameron Naasz widened his lead at the top of the Ice Cross Downhill World Championship standings with a riveting victory worth 250 points at the penultimate Riders Cup race of the season in La Sarre, Canada on Saturday.
With only two stops left on the nine-race calendar, Naasz is aiming to become the first racer to win the Ice Cross Downhill championship twice in a row. He dominated the field on an unseasonably warm evening in the Quebec town and now has a total of 2,600 championship points after his two closest rivals fell just short of spots on the podium. American Maxwell Dunne had to settle for fifth in La Sarre and now has 2,272.5 championship points for second overall while Canada's Scott Croxall was fourth and has 2,237.5 points. Austria's Marco Dallago is also still within striking range of Naasz.
France's Tristan Dugerdil took second place on Saturday and Canada's Kyle Croxall was third down the 460-meter long natural ice track with its 28-meter descent that was filled with obstacles. It was an usually challenging run mixing steep gliding and flatter skating sections. After frosty weather in training with temperatures far below freezing, they rose well above freezing on race day and the ice became smooth but treacherously soft with ruts and cuts galore. There was another large crowd for the Riders Cup race with more than 4,000 spectators watching the high-speed, rough and tumble action in the world's fastest sport on skates.
"The weather was warm but the track is awesome and the fans are amazing," said Naasz, the defending champion who has been the epitome of consistency this season with five podiums in all five races he took part in this year: Three podiums in the points-rich Red Bull Crashed Ice races -- Marseille (1st), Jyväskylä (3rd), Saint Paul (3rd), and two podiums in Riders Cup races worth one-quarter as many points – Rautalampi, Finland (3rd) and La Sarre (1st). "It's nice to win here but my focus is on winning Ottawa and taking the points up for grabs. I'm looking forward to the final two races in Bathurst and Ottawa, and chasing another title."
Jeanne Chouinard won the women's race ahead of Elaine Topolnisky in second place and Alicia Blomberg in third. Chouinard's father Jean-Claude Chouinard was a former professional Ice Cross Downhill racer.
In Ice Cross Downhill, athletes race down the obstacle-filled ice track four-at-a-time at speeds of up to 82 km/h. The first two advance to the next round as the field is whittled down from 128 to a final 4 in the extreme test of stamina, conditioning and exposure to the elements.
Dunne and Scott Croxall still have plenty of chances to catch Naasz as there are 250 points up for grabs for the winner of the next Riders Cup race in Bathurst on Feb. 25 and 1,000 points to the winner of the final Red Bull Crashed Ice race of the season in Ottawa on March 3-4.
Scott Croxall crashed hard in the finish area after winning his semi-final heat. "I went to brake after the finish line and took a huge toe pick," he said. "We're dealing with some super warm temperatures. I took a hard tumble on my shoulder but I'll shake it off. I'll be ready to go for Ottawa. That's for all the marbles. I'm really focused and determined to do really well. You can expect to see me in the final."
Results La Sarre men: 1. Cameron Naasz (USA), 2. Tristan Dugerdil (FRA) 3. Kyle Croxall (CAN) 4. Scott Croxall (CAN), 5. Maxwell Dunne (USA), 6. Simon Foley (CAN), 7. Steven Cox (CAN) 8. Eric Milinkovic (CAN) 9. Shayne Renaud (CAN), 10. Gabriel Renaud (CAN)
Results La Sarre women: 1. Jeanne Chouinard (CAN), 2. Elaine Topolnisky (CAN), 3. Alicia Blomberg (CAN), 4. Dominique Lefebvre (CAN), 5. Sandrine Rangeon (FRA)