From the sun and warm weather of Southern France to the snow and frost of Finland, the athletes racing in the Ice Cross Downhill World Championship will have to quickly shift gears for the second Red Bull Crashed Ice of the season in Jyväskylä-Laajis.
It is hard to imagine two more different venues for Red Bull Crashed Ice races than last week's first-ever stop in a warm-weather city, in the Mediterranean port of Marseille, and this week's second race in the frozen Finnish college town of Jyväskylä. But that is exactly the extreme test of stamina, conditioning and exposure to the elements on the 630 meter long track with its 66-meter vertical drop that the world's fastest downhill ice skaters will have to master for the second stop of the season on Jan. 20 and 21.
In Ice Cross Downhill, athletes race down an obstacle-filled ice track four-at-a-time at speeds of up to 80 km/h. The first two advance as the field is whittled down from more than 100 to a final 4. Finland is one of the sport's most enthusiastic nations, having produced former champion Arttu Pihlainen. Three athletes in this week's race will be celebrating 10 years of competition at the highest level after joining the sport at the 2007 race in Helsinki.
Never before in the 16-year history of Red Bull Crashed Ice, the signature series in the 9 stop Ice Cross Downhill World Championship, have there been back-to-back races on two weekends. But this year's crowded calendar with five Riders Cup races, which are worth 25% as many points, along with the four point-rich Red Bull Crashed Ice events means athletes have little time to recover from the race in Marseille, where Cameron Naasz got his title defense off to a flying start with a victory in France's warmest city. He beat compatriot Maxwell Dunne into second. Canada's Scott Croxall was third and Austria's Marco Dallago fourth.
The American, who has now won five of the last six Red Bull Crashed Ice races and wants to become the first to win back-to-back titles, will be looking to double his point total to 2,000 with a win in Jyväskylä-Laajis. A victory on the long natural ice track in the snow-covered ski resort here three hours north of Helsinki would also help Naasz avenge a bitter defeat in Jyväsklä-Laajis that nearly cost him last year's championship.
Scott Croxall won at this location last year following a dramatic slip from Cameron Naasz in the final. Photo: Daniel Grund/Red Bull Content Pool.
"I always want to win and the next thing in my sights is Finland and I'm for sure going to be focused on that," said Naasz. "It's always the goal in the back of mind," he added, referring to his aim of becoming the first to defend his title. There have been seven different champions in the last seven years.
In the women's competition, Canada's Jacqueline Legere got her title defense off to a blazing start in Marseille, looking unstoppable as she led from start to finish in the final, eventually crossing the line ahead of Amanda Trunzo in second and Sydney O'keefe in third. Legere will now be looking to double her points to 2,000 at the marathon track in Jyväskylä.
Watch it Live
Red Bull Crashed Ice Finland will broadcast LIVE on redbullcrashedice.com and Red Bull TV on January 21st at 6:00 PM CET (5:00 PM GMT).
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.
If you miss the event or simply want to watch all the action again, the replay will be available on demand a few minutes after the event.