In the blue corner: two-time winner in Quebec City, Arttu Pihlainen. In the red corner: Canada's own Kyle Croxall. Two men will do battle for the championship title as Red Bull Crashed Ice returns to Quebec City for the 2011 season finale this Saturday.
Finland’s Pihlainen, who has won the last two races this year in Moscow and Valkenburg, holds a 300-point lead over Ontario native Croxall, who won the season opener in Munich and has been hot on Pihlainen’s heels ever since with podiums in the next two races.
With over one hundred athletes from all over the world battling it out on the 540-metre long ice track, Pihlainen is aware that, while it may be a two-man fight for the title, anything is possible in a series of four-man heats.
“I’m in good shape and feel confident but anything can happen in a race against three other guys,” Pihlainen said. “The track in Quebec is longer and that would help me if I fall down. In Quebec I’d still have time to catch the other guys.”
Pihlainen, who won the Quebec race in front of enormous crowds in 2008 and 2009, does not need to win in Canada to secure the 2011 championship thanks to the 300-point cushion over Croxall – 2,800 to 2,500. But the Finn said he will still be going all out for his third straight victory this year.
'It's the biggest event, the longest track and the best crowd'
“In front of that audience I wanna win,” said Pihlainen. “That’s my goal. I don’t think much about the points. It’s the biggest event, the longest track and the best crowd. You just wanna perform well there.”
Pihlainen will stick to his usual strategy for the season finale in Canada even though he knows the crowd will be cheering for their local hero, Croxall: “Just my normal thing: full speed from the start.”
Croxall, who came in second in the World Championship last year to Germany’s Martin Niefnecker, will also be going all out in Quebec to win the 2011 race and possibly the championship.
“I’m still going to give 100 percent to win this next race and hope the rest works out for me so I can take the championship,” said Croxall, who was second in Moscow and third in Valkenburg after winning Munich this year.
“This track is a faster track, unlike the past three this year. It is definitely more my style of track. My goal for Quebec is to do the same thing as last year and take the win in front of all the Canadian fans.”