Red Bull Crashed Ice season opens in Finland
The excitement for the 2014 Ice Cross Downhill World Championship is rising ahead of the first stop in Helsinki on February 1, where Switzerland’s Derek Wedge will launch the defence of his 2013 World Championship title at the first of four races this year for championship points. The race in Finland at the Serena Ski Resort, just outside of Helsinki, will be on one of a growing number of permanent tracks being built around the world in a reflection of the sport’s popularity.
Switzerland’s Derek Wedge came out of nowhere last year to win the world championship ahead of Canadian veteran and 2012 champion Kyle Croxall, in second, and American newcomer Cameron Naasz, in third place overall, after the most exciting season in the sport’s history, with four different winners in five races. The competition is expected to be even more intense this time around with no clear favourite for the title as many athletes have been training all-year round for the high-speed downhill sport, where athletes race at up to 60kph down challenging tracks with a vertical drop of about 40 metres and up to 480 metres long that are packed with jumps, bumps and hairpin turns.
Athletes with dreams of becoming ice cross downhill stars have taken part in high-tempo qualifying competitions around Europe and North America, hoping to follow in the footsteps of Wedge, Naasz and Austria’s Marco Dallago, who came to Red Bull Crashed Ice as an unheralded walk-on at a regional qualifier before turning into the sport’s surprise star last year.
The race in Finland will pay tribute to the Flying Finns who have made an indelible mark on the sport since it was created in 2001. Finland is the home of some of the world’s best ice cross downhill racers of all time such as Miikka Jouhkimainen, Paavo Klintrup, and, the recently retired, Arttu Pihlainen. The sport is hugely popular in a country that loves speed and athletes who push themselves to the limits – and two of last year’s top 10 were from Finland.