Kyle Croxall steps up championship charge in Valkenburg
Croxall, who saw off rival, and current incumbent, Arttu Pihlainen in the semi-final, finished ahead of rising star Fabian Mels, of Germany, in a hard-fought final. There was a Finn on the Dutch podium, but, for once, it was not Pihlainen, with the champion’s compatriot, Paavo Klintrup, completing the top three.
Croxall, the runner-up in 2011, widened his lead at the top of the 2012 world championship standings with the spectacular come-from-behind victory in front of 25,000 frenzied spectators on the most difficult Red Bull Crashed Ice track ever built.
Mels was leading the four finalists through the challenging series of bumps, jumps and a high-speed abyss but he stumbled briefly on one tricky hurdle, giving Croxall the opening he needed to take the lead. It was Croxall's second straight race win after taking the season opener in Saint Paul and fourth career victory.
It was a disappointing race for Kyle's brother, Scott Croxall, who looked like he was headed for his first win after posting a series of crushing victories in each of the four-man heats from the Round of 64 to the finals. But one of Croxall’s skates broke near the top of the track and he ended up fourth. Switzerland's Kilian Braun, who had posted the fastest qualifying time on Friday and beat Kyle Croxall in two of their three heats on Saturday, failed to finish any higher than fifth.
“I guess I just wanted to win this more than anyone else,” said Kyle Croxall, who had struggled on Friday with only the 17th fastest time after injuring his shoulder in a heavy crash. “Everyone’s improving so much and it’s getting harder all the time.”
The 575-metre-long track was the longest and fastest in the history of the sport, with riders accelerating to over 70kph. The start ramp was a frightening seven-metre drop on a 50-degree angle.
Another of the standout performers was Swiss athlete Derek Wedge, who qualified for the race after attending one of the Dutch qualifiers. The dreadlocked daredevil impressed the other athletes with his skating skill en route to a 16th-placed finish. Dutch racer Roby Haazen, meanwhile, scooped the MINI Rookie Award.
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