Two youngsters have been tearing up the time sheets and putting the pressure on the previous winners of Red Bull Crashed Ice. Germany’s Fabian Mels and Canada's Scott Croxall have had some of the fastest track times in the first half of the 2012 season and are both knocking on the door for their first victory – could it come this Saturday in Sweden?
Both have demonstrated blinding speed and an astonishing mastery of Red Bull Crashed Ice tracks at times this year, but the German and Canadian have come up just short in the big races so far. Both are hungry for their first win this weekend in Sweden at the third stop of the four-race championship and a victory by one of the two youngsters could turn the Ice Cross Downhill World Championship into a free-for-all with a handful of athletes still in the title hunt.
Watch Saturday's race on redbull.tv – live coverage gets underway at 6pm (CET)!
Mels, second in the championship with 1,250 points, came close to winning his first race in Valkenburg where he dominated his heats to the final and was even leading eventual winner Kyle Croxall, of Canada, for much of the race. But the towering German stumbled briefly and that was all Croxall needed to pass him and take his second straight victory. Mels’ career-best second-place finish lifted him to second place overall in the championship and has race experts predicting he will be the man to beat in the future.
“I could have won in Valkenburg,” said Mels, a 20-year-old student from the town of Roesrath near Cologne who won the MINI Rookie Award last year in his first race in Munich. “I can go even faster than that. I’m always thinking about how I can improve and working at getting better. I think the top eight are pretty close to each other and in these races anything can happen. Any one of the top six can still win the championship,” added the German who qualified second in Friday’s International Shoot Out.
Mels has made an astonishing breakthrough to the sport’s elite this year and showed no fear in standing up to established stars. Even 2010 champion Martin Niefnecker, a fellow German, gets no respect with Mels beating him regularly. Mels believes his towering height is a definite advantage: “I can take one step while the other guys need a step and a half or even two steps to match me. I definitely know I can get even better,” said Mels, who has played hockey for 15 years and has raced speed boats, wake boards and done a lot of water skiing and wind surfing. “I love speed. All the water sports help give me a lot of balance, which helps in this sport.”
Scott Croxall, 21, is another youngster with a bright future. He has been plagued with bad luck at times, like in Valkenburg when his skate broke in the final when he was in the lead and after he had dominated all his heats.
“After the semi-finals there was a rush to get me back up to the top of the hill for the finals and the vehicle took off before I was ready,” he said. “I wasn’t holding on yet and had to kick my skate out to prevent me from falling out. I think that might have been where my skate broke. I checked it at the top and it seemed okay. But it broke right after the first jump and I had to skate all the way down on one skate. I was in the lead when that happened. It was very frustrating.”
Croxall vented by smashing his helmet and kicking holes in the hoardings. “It really sucked,” said Croxall, who began playing hockey as a toddler and is now fourth in the championship with 1100 points.
Croxall, who qualified sixth on Friday, will be going all out to beat everyone this weekend even if it spoils his brother, Kyle's, championship hopes. “I’m going for first place. I need to get a first win under my belt. It’s way overdue. I’m going for first place in the next two races.”