Less than 24 hours before the start of the first race of the Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship 2011 in Munich, the 128 best ice cross downhill racers in the world dug their razor-sharp skates into the 353-metre long ice track to slice the field clean in half.
The fastest 64 athletes qualified for the finals on Saturday at Munich’s Olympiapark, a race which you can see live on redbull.com/tv from 6pm (CET).
Mere fractions of a second will likely separate the winners and losers of the opening race on Saturday, with a series of hard-fought man-to-man duels.
In the elimination round on Friday, there were already plenty of upsets with dozens of athletes crashing hard into the barriers and causing damage to the ice.
Finn Arttu Pihlainen, pictured above, has won two races in previous seasons and posted the fastest time of the evening, taking on the role of the favourite for Saturday’s main event. Scott Croxall was just 0.26 seconds behind in second place, while Kim Mueller took third place, 0.62 seconds back.
World Champion Martin Niefnecker took ninth place, 1.18 seconds behind. Niefnecker, who triumphed at last year’s race in Munich in front of a crowd of 50,000 fans before taking second place at the final 2010 race in Quebec City to secure the world championship, said: “I crashed hard into the wall in training earlier in the day with my back and didn’t want to take any more risk. Tomorrow is when it’s about all or nothing.”
Red Bull Crashed Ice legend Jasper Felder conserved his energy in the elimination round, skating leisurely across the finish line in an upright position in 37th place, 2.68 seconds behind.
The Swede, who has a record seven race victories, and who recently supplied us with a few tips, is considered one of the favourites for Saturday’s race.