Canada’s Kyle Croxall had to dig deep into his bag of experience to pull off a sensational victory over American Cameron Naasz in a thrill-filled final in the first Red Bull Crashed Ice race of the season in Niagara Falls in front of 35,000 spectators. Many of the stars were upset by hard-charging newcomers.
Croxall, a former 19 Wing Comox firefighter now living in Calgary and defending Ice Cross Downhill world champion, survived a heavy crash near the start but used his five years of experience to come from far behind to win the opening round of the 2012/13 series, to the delight of a frenzied home crowd on Saturday. Second-year racer Naasz and Switzerland’s Kilian Braun were second and third down the treacherous, 460-metre long ice track set up next to the famous Niagara Falls.
Croxall, who had a knack of coming from behind in almost all his races on Saturday, crashed into Braun shortly after the start of the final and turned his fleet-footed rival into a Swiss sandwich.
They both looked hopelessly lost as the sure-footed Naasz sped away toward the finish line. But Croxall bounced right back up and, as the big home crowd cheered him on, began closing in the American, getting back Naasz two corners before the finish.
"It was a lot of pressure," said Croxall. "It was awesome. I’ve got so many friends here and the Canadian crowd is amazing." In a big shock, his brother Scott, third in last year's championship, was eliminated in the first round while 2011 champion Arttu Pihlainen pulled out after a heavy crash in training.
Though denied victory, Naasz's remarkable performance throughout the competition (when he was the fastest during the timed Shoot Outs and continuing his blistering form right through to the final) was rewarded with a place on the podium.
It will also give the American fans of ice cross downhill plenty to cheer about ahead of the next stop of the season in Saint Paul, Minn. on Jan. 26. "I'm really looking forward to the race in Saint Paul," Naasz said. "It's my hometown and it's going to be an awesome race."
Adam Horst, a firefighter from Fort. St. John, placed fourth. In the inaugural Team Challenge competition on Friday, Swatch Pro Team led by Braun took first place over Croxall's International Gladiators.
– Red Bull Crashed Ice