Switzerland's Jim De Paoli won the second Riders Cup race of the 2016/17 Ice Cross Downhill World Championship in the frosty Finnish town of Rautalampi on Saturday, while American Maxwell Dunne moved into first place overall with with his third straight second-place finish. Cameron Naasz, the reigning champion, moved into second place overall in the title fight with third place in the race on a challenging natural ice track Saturday in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 1,000.
De Paoli got the first win of his long career in the world's fastest sport on skates, taking the top spot in a star-studded final four that also included Canada's Kyle Croxall, who finished fourth. His brother Scott Croxall, the 2015 champion, was fifth. Scott Croxall had won last week's Red Bull Crashed Ice race in Jväskylä, Finland, to throw the championship into a three-way tie at the top with Dunne and Naasz. Dunne won 200 points on Saturday and now leads the championship with 1,800 points while Naasz got 150 for third and now has 1,750, with Croxall on 1,712.5. There were 108 men in the race, chasing valuable world championship points, while 11 women were also competing.
"I felt good on this track from the beginning," said De Paoli of the 540-meter long track featuring double waves, step-downs, three jumps and four banked turns. "It's weird that it's never happened before," he said of his first win. "It's going to take a while for that to dawn on me. Right now the focus is on next week's Red Bull Crashed Ice race in Saint Paul."
Naasz was just beaten in a photo finish by Dunne at the finish line in the battle for second place but said he was happy to get his third straight podium in three races this season: first in Marseille, third in Jyväskylä and second in Rautalampi. "I gave Max a good run at the finish line but he was able to hold me off. I'm loving the American battle."
In another strong showing for racers from Finland, a country that has warmly embraced Ice Cross Downhill, Paavo Klintrup took seventh and Mirko Lahti was 10th.
In the women's race, Sandrine Rangeon of France took top honours while Finland's Camilla Ojapalo was second and Katrina Buesch of Germany was third.
"I really enjoy the natural ice track," said Rangeon, who also finished a strong third at last week's race. "It works for me."
In Ice Cross Downhill, four athletes at a time race down an obstacle-filed ice track of several hundred meters in length and the two fastest advance to the next round. A field of more than 100 is gradually whittled down to a final four.
Results men: 1. Jim De Paoli (SUI), 2. Maxwell Dunne (USA), 3. Cameron Naasz (USA), 4. Kyle Croxall (CAN), 5. Scott Croxall (CAN), 6. Mark Taru (EST), 7. Paavo Klintrup (FIN), 8. Shayne Renaud (CAN), 9. Tristan Dugerdil (FRA), 10. Mirko Lahti (FIN).
Results women: 1. Sandrine Rangeon (FRA), 2. Camilla Ojapalo (FIN), 3. Katrina Buesch (GER), 4. Miisa Klemola (FIN), 5. Kati Koskelin (FIN)