Martin Niefnecker is one of two German competitors fighting for the Ice Cross Downhill World Championship crown. Prior to the race in Munich we caught up with the man from Garmisch-Partenkirchen to find out what it takes to come out on top in the world's ice channels. One of his most important tips: "There's no place for fear in ice cross downhill."
Martin, what makes ice cross downhill special for you?
The whole sport is a frenzy. Ice Cross Downhill is a sport that's completely unique. For me personally, nothing else matches it. The crazy settings in which we compete like the one in Quebec City or soon here in Munich, where the tracks are built under open skies right in the city and thousands of fans line up along the track – all of that makes ice cross downhill an unforgettable experience for both the riders and fans.
In the first race of the season in Quebec City you finished 11th. What are your expectations for Munich?
First of all I am really happy, that after 2010 and 2011 Red Bull Crashed Ice finally returns to Munich in 2016. For my home race I wish for loads of psyching fans plus I want to go further than I did in Canada. For starters a top 16 finish is ok, but for my home race I hope for more.
Niefnecker during the 2010 Munich event
In 2010 you not only won the race in Munich, you also won the world championship. What does it take to come out on top in the world's ice channels?
First of all, there's definitely no place for fear in ice cross downhill. In case anyone needs to, he should leave his fear at home. Then there are things like responsiveness, quickness, agility and absolute body control. You need all of that to be successful in ice cross downhill. Especially at the start, which in my opinion in 60 per cent of the cases decides who will eventually win the race.
How come the start is that important?
If you are the first to come out of the start gate you can choose which line you want to take. If two or three guys are in front of you, you have to take whatever they offer you. In most cases racing in an ice channel with three guys besides you there's little room left to operate with (laughs). That's why eventually you will end up in situations you wouldn't be in, if you got to choose your line yourself.
Martin Niefnecker before the race in Quebec City
You said there's no place for fear in ice cross downhill – does it help to have a background in hockey, like you do?
Definitely, yes. Like many ice cross downhill riders I have my roots in ice hockey. There are certainly some parallels as far as physicality goes. I think when it comes to bravado and the willingness to sacrifice, ice cross downhill riders and hockey players are much alike.
How did you prepare for this season?
In winter I am very much into skiing. As soon as the snow melts I change my skis for my racing bike. That way I put a lot of kilometres behind me. I work in Switzerland and have access to two mountain passes that are ideal for cycling, especially since they are closed for traffic most of the time. I am not much of a weight room guy, I actually never go there. I prefer the outdoors.
Pure adrenaline: for rider and fans
Who are the riders to look out for this season?
Actually we the riders talk a lot about that. From my experience the first race in Canada is a good first assessment who to watch out for. Therefore Cameron Naasz, the Moriarity and Croxall brothers seem to be the ones to keep an eye on once again. On the other hand, every year there are lots of newcomers, who all of a sudden come out of nowhere to quickly establish themselves as top riders, like the Dallago brothers did a couple of years back. It certainly will remain very exciting.