Canada's Scott Croxall and Minnesota's own Cameron Naasz will be battling it out for the Ice Cross Downhill World Championship at the season finale of the world's fastest sport on skates in Saint Paul on February 26-27. After Naasz dominated the first half of the longest season in the sport's history with two Red Bull Crashed Ice wins, Croxall has fought back hard and will be attempting to become the first athlete in the sport's 15-year history to win back-to-back world championships. The women's world championship will also be decided at what promises to be the most epic race of the season when Canada's Jacqueline Legere, Myriam Trepanier and Elaine Topolnisky go head to head in front of an enthusiastic crowd.
"It feels great to be in the lead," said Croxall, who won the last Red Bull Crashed Ice race in Jyväskylä-Laajis, Finland and then jumped into the overall lead for the first time this season with his third place finish at the Riders Cup race in Bathurst, NB, Canada. "I've stuck to my game plan to be focused on having a consistent season." That he has had with five podiums this season.
Naasz became the first American to lead the Ice Cross Downhill World Championship on the strength of his resounding victories at Red Bull Crashed Ice races in Quebec City and Munich. He could have clinched the title in Finland but stumbled while in the lead in the final and ended up fourth. Croxall, who had been third in Quebec City and second to Naasz in Munich, made the most out of the lucky break and now holds a slim lead over Naasz going into the finale. But Naasz, who grew up just south of Saint Paul in Lakeville, Minnesota, believes the home crowd will help propel him back into the lead to grab the title.
"I always look forward to the Saint Paul stop of the world tour because it's my home event," said Naasz, who got his first taste of the sport here in 2012. "I really enjoy how Saint Paul always has one of the gnarliest tracks of the season. I especially enjoy the huge starting ramps Saint Paul is notorious for. Racing at home is a huge advantage for me. I definitely gain energy from the home town atmosphere." The 360-meter long artificial ice track starts on the steps of the Saint Paul Cathedral and drops 35 meters into the valley towards the Mississippi River with challenging features including the "Rhythm Waves", the "BF Goodrich Wallride" and a "Dino Bridge".
Americans were late to join the rough and tumble, high-speed competition of Red Bull Crashed Ice. It took more than a decade after the sport was created in 2001 for it to catch on in the United States with the first race held in Saint Paul but it has since become an annual fixture with enthusiastic crowds. Naasz was a student at the time and gave it a try. He finished a respectable 24th in a field of 154 in his first race. In 2013, he finished third overall and was then second overall in 2014 and 2015.
The action-packed sport had been dominated until then by Canadians, Finns, Austrians, Swiss and Swedes with no Americans anywhere in sight. Ice Cross Downhill is a tactical, physical and high-speed sport with four riders at a time zooming down the obstacle-filled track with a vertical drop – with the two fastest advancing to the next round.
The team event will open the weekend racing on the Friday evening. Six of the world's best ice cross downhill athletes battle against each other down the ice track. Bigger than the individual competition and featuring spectacular crashes with two teams of three racers battling elbow-to-elbow on a narrow and twisting track, the team event not only offers additional racing opportunities but also gives center stage to the top 16 teams.
Ice Cross Downhill World Championship standings:
MEN: 1. Scott Croxall (CAN) 2,885 points, 2. Cameron Naasz (USA) 2,840, 3. Dean Moriarity (CAN) 2,140, Luca Dallago (AUT) 1,425, 5. Tristan Dugerdil (FRA) 1,375, 6. Pacôme Schmitt (FRA) 1,345, 7. Kilian Braun (SUI) 1,320, 8. John Fisher (CAN) 1,030, 9. Paavo Klintrup (FIN) 995, 10. Maxwell Dunne (USA) 882,5
WOMEN: 1. Jacqueline 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
WATCH IT LIVE: Red Bull Crashed Ice Saint Paul will broadcast live on redbullcrashedice.com and Red Bull TV at 2:45am CET on February 27 and will be available on demand immediately after the competition. Red Bull TV is available on connected TVs, gaming consoles, mobile devices and more. For a full list of supported devices, visit about.redbull.tv.
For US fans, the live webcast and replay is geo-blocked in the US due to an exclusive deal with FOX Sports. The race will air on the FOX broadcast network on March 5 at 4:30pm EST. Following this, it will be available on demand at Red Bull TV.