The next generation of Finnish Ice Cross Downhill racers made the most of their chances at the second Junior Championship, taking the top three places in the new competition for athletes aged between 16 and 20. Mirko Lahti, Jesse Sauren and Joni Saarinen grabbed first, second and third places on the 630-meter long natural ice track on Friday to the delight of their Finnish fans lining the track in this ski resort.
Saarinen, who won the first-ever Junior World Championship in Marseille last week, is the overall leader after two stops. He was still beaming in Finland about his back-to-back podiums and his victory in the debut race in Marseille.
"Marseille was a great start for the season", said the 18-year-old while training with his fellow riders Maximilian Hohl of Austria and Vaclav Kosnar of the Czech Republic ahead of the second race on the 630-meter long natural ice track on Friday. "It was just an amazing atmosphere", said the young Austrian rider Maximilian Hohl, who came in third behind France's Martin Barrau, about the junior event in the glamorous Mediterranean harbor city Marseille. "It's an amazing opportunity for young athletes. The competition keeps it alive."
Saarinen, who is currently in the lead since he is the only racer who was able to reach the podium twice so far, was visibly disappointed about his third place on the snow covered ski-resort of Jyväskylä-Laajis.
Mirko Lahti, who played hockey and also rides motocross, hurt himself in training in Marseille and was not able to participate and missed the final race in the old harbor. But this time, Lahti got a winning streak into the final, he dashed way ahead of favorite Saarinen, who brushed off in a curve and was unable to regain his position.
The Junior World Championship was designed to give aspiring young Ice Cross Downhill athletes a chance to compete, develop and gain valuable experience on the major tracks while attracting new athletes to the sport.
"It's valuable for us", said the Czech junior rider Kosnar, who came in third in the inaugural race in Marseille, France. "We learn a lot from the seniors", he said about the racers of the Ice Cross Downhill Championship, who they look up to and eventually will compete against.
The third junior event starts in two week's time on February 3rd across the Atlantic Ocean in Saint Paul, the capital of Minnesota in the USA.