Canada’s Kyle Croxall came from behind to beat his brother Scott and American Cameron Naasz in a breathtaking photo finish in the final of the Ice Cross Downhill World Championship race on Saturday in front of 115,000 frenzied spectators.
The second race in the series was held Jan. 26 in Saint Paul, Minn in front of 115,000 frenzied spectators.
Naasz had jumped into the early lead on the twisting, obstacle-filled 400-metre track just after the start on Saint Paul’s Cathedral hill but ran out of energy just a stride or two before the finish line as the two Croxalls sprinted past the fatigued local hero near the banks of the frozen Mississippi River.
It was the closest final in the 13-year history of Red Bull Crashed Ice and it took several moments for judges to analyze the photo finish to determine the finishing order. “I just wish I could have got a few more strides in going up that last hill,” said Naasz, who injured his back in a heavy crash in the quarter-finals.
“I just didn’t have anything left in the tanks and was just trying to hang on. I just have to try to figure out how to stay in front of this guy.”
Kyle Croxall, the 2012 champion and Saint Paul winner last year who now has a total of six career victories, said he had a difficult start from an outside gate but stayed on Naasz’s heels all the way down. “You just look for your opportunity when you get it,” said the former 19 Wing Comox firefighter, the hottest racer on the circuit at the moment with four wins in the last six races going back to the start of the 2012 season.
The improbable success of the 23-year-old Naasz, a college student who joined the sport as a rookie just a year ago at the Saint Paul race, kept the American crowd fired up all evening long despite the arctic temperatures that plunged far below freezing and ice-cold winds on what is traditionally the coldest weekend of the year in Minnesota.
Naasz, who finished second in the season opener in December in Niagara Falls, is second overall in the world championship standings with 1,400 points behind only defending champion Kyle Croxall (2,000 points) with three races left in the five-race 2012/13 season.
The next stop is in Landgraaf, Netherlands on Feb. 9
In the Jan. 25 Team Challenge, Scott Croxall and teammates Adam Horst and Travis Nagata powered their way to a victory over another Canadian squad, “Team Ottawa”, in a nail-biting final. More than 200 of the world’s best Downhill Cross athletes took part in the three days of racing in Saint Paul, which has fast become the hotspot for the sport in the United States.
– Red Bull Crashed Ice