The Ice Cross Downhill World Championship will feature nine stages in its 2017/18 season, including four major Red Bull Crashed Ice races and five Riders Cup races. American Cameron Naasz will be looking to win his third straight championship while Canada's Jacqueline Legere is going for a three-peat in the women's division.
From the shores of the Mediterranean in France to the frozen north of western Canada, the ATSX Ice Cross Downhill World Championship promises to take the world's fastest sport on skates to the next level in its 18th season.
Fearless skaters race down obstacle-filled ice tracks of about 600 meters in length four-at-a-time at speeds of up to 80 km/h with the fastest two advancing. More than 1,000 athletes from 25 countries and five continents around the world take part in races that have become so popular that they regularly draw large crowds into city centers. Even Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau found the racing event so irresistible that he attended last year's season finale. The action right next to the track in the heart of cities is so riveting that sizable crowds even attend qualifying sessions on the day before the race, getting up-close-and-personal glimpses of the racers as they whiz past.
Two world champions – Naasz of the United States and Legere of Canada in the women's division – will be trying to extend their respective title streaks to three straight seasons and will have packs of hungry challengers eager to knock them off their thrones.
"I'm definitely just as motivated as in the past two years and certainly don't think a three-peat is impossible," said Naasz, who became the first man in the history of the sport to win back-to-back world championships in 2016 and 2017. "I'm still in great shape and finding ways to improve every day."
Former champions Scott Croxall (CAN) and Marco Dallago (AUT) as well as Maxwell Dunne (USA), Tristan Dugerdil (FRA) and Jim De Paoli (SUI) will be breathing down his neck all winter. Also, Mirko Lahti (FIN), who won last year's Junior Championship, has been training hard in the off season and could be another challenger.
Legere is also brimming with confidence she can defend her title for a second time: "The competition has been getting stronger each year and I'll have to train extra hard if I want to keep my title. I know I'll have to step up my game." American Amanda Trunzo and Canada's Myriam Trepanier will also be looking to claim the title this season.
The Red Bull Crashed Ice season will kick off on January 19-20 in Saint Paul, Minnesota – the seventh straight season that the city has hosted the race.
Two weeks later the field moves to the far northern reaches of Europe in Jyväskylä, Finland for the third time in a row on February 2-3, where the temperatures are frigid enough for a natural ice track at the university town's ski resort.
And then, when the rest of the world is tuning into the Winter Olympics in South Korea, Red Bull Crashed Ice will be back in southern Europe for racing in Marseille, France on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea for racing on February 16-17.
And this year's season finale returns to Edmonton in western Canada on March 9-10.
The Juniors World Championship will be back for a second season after its successful debut last year, a feeder competition that helped younger racers gain invaluable experience racing down the tracks under the spotlight and pressure of performing in front of large crowds.
There will also be five Riders Cup competitions – races staged by riders for riders that are worth ¼ as many championship points as the Red Bull Crashed Ice stages. The Riders Cup races will be held in Wagrain (AUT), St Petersburg (RUS), Saariselka (FIN), Minnesota (USA) and La Sarre (CAN).
Ice Cross Downhill Word Championship 2017/18 Calendar:
16. December 2017: Riders Cup, Wagrain-Kleinarl, Austria
19./20. January 2018: Red Bull Crashed Ice, Saint Paul, USA
27. January 2018: Riders Cup, St Petersburg, Russia
03. February 2018: Red Bull Crashed Ice, Jyväskylä-Laajis, Finland
10. February 2018: Riders Cup, Saariselka, Finland
16./17. February 2018: Red Bull Crashed Ice, Marseille, France
24. February 2018: Riders Cup, Minnesota, USA
03. March 2018: Riders Cup, La Sarre, Canada
9./10. March 2018: Red Bull Crashed Ice, Edmonton, Canada