A growing number of Ice Cross Downhill athletes have turned the world’s fastest sport on skates into a full-time occupation, training hard year-round and more professionally than ever before in the pursuit of greater glory.
MUNICH, Germany – Practice makes perfect — and some of the world’s best Ice Cross Downhill athletes are emphatically proving that point this season going into the third race of the season in Munich this weekend. Taking specialized off-season training to a whole new level by working out some 25 hours per week all year round, some of the racers competing in Red Bull Crashed Ice are enjoying the fruits of their long and hard labor with outstanding performances this winter.
Defending world champion Scott Croxall of Canada and compatriot Dean Moriarity, American Cameron Naasz and 2014 champion Marco Dallago are among the growing number of athletes who spend up to 25 hours a week working out all spring, summer and fall to get ready for the winter season. Despite the absence of ice, the athletes have spent the off-season working on improving their strength, their stamina, and their speed. They are hitting the gym, working with personal trainers, racing around skate parks, training on wooden downhill tracks and keeping their ice skills up by playing hockey. Their greater fitness and strength was on abundant display at the first stop in Quebec City, where Naasz was first ahead of Moriarity with Croxall in third.
“You can’t show up without a lot of training in the off-season and expect to do well, especially against the top guys,” said Croxall, who worked out twice a day for most of the off-season to get ready for his title defence. “I think everyone involved in the top 64 of the sport now is putting a lot of time into training. Everyone wants to do well and win, so you’ve got to train harder than the next guy.”
Moriarity, who was having a strong run at the Riders Cup race in Wagrain-Kleinarl before ending up in eighth, has also spent some 25 hours a week working out after taking just a short one-month break after the last season ended in March. The 21-year-old has devoted his life to the sport and said the most important thing is to have a detailed plan for the off-season.
“The off-season is hugely important,” said Moriarity, who was third overall last season. “You need a plan to peak for the season and work towards your goals.” He said he and his brother Dylan improved their strength, stamina and weight with intensive workouts four times a week throughout the off-season with a new strength coach, Sean Coulton, at the Axxeleration Performance Center in Montreal and trained together with NHL players Andrej Šustr and Axel Killorn.
“We did a lot of explosion exercises, a lot of control exercises and work that helps with our balance and strength out of the gates,” said Moriarity, who said he gained 10 pounds to 155 pounds from the specialized training. Despite getting pre-work and post-workout shakes, he cut his body fat from 11 percent to 3 percent – “even though I didn’t look fat at all before.” The spirited training with the NHL players helped him and his brother improve their vertical jumps by three inches to 29 inches.
“One of the best things was that we were able to feed off the energy of Šustr and Killorn,” he said. “They were so into their off-season training, getting ready for their season, kind of doing the same things as us but with such a focused mindset. It really helped us and motivated us. We became good friends. They’re following us and our sport now and we’re following them too.” The most important thing, Moriarity said, is that he can feel the difference from all the hard work: “I feel so much stronger this season. I feel I can push my body more. I’ve got a lot more power in my legs a lot more stamina.”
Dallago, who won the 2014 title thanks to his lightening fast starts, was frustrated that so many others improved their starts last season so he redoubled his efforts in the off-season to try to win back the title with even faster starts. He and his brother Luca have about 10 training sessions per week, and race down two lumber tracks of about 200 meters each they have built near their home in Austria.
“The big difference now is that so many people are training all year round,” said Dallago, 25. “We tried to improved the quality of our training this summer, to make it something like 10 to 15 percent more intense. My starts were always good but they’re even better now. For me that’s the key to the race: you get a great start and the rest takes care of itself.”
Naasz, 26, is also riding high this season with a win in Quebec City after punishing himself in more grueling workouts than every before throughout the off-season. Working out in the gym, racing with inline skates on a BMX track, running and playing hockey, Naasz had three training partners to work out with some 25 hours a week this past summer to keep his motivation high.
“I surrounded myself with people who really wanted to get better in this sport and succeed,” said Naasz, referring to Ice Cross Downhill athletes and his training partners Andrew Swanson, Max Dunne and Tommy Mertz. “We were all really motivated and my overall fitness improved drastically. I was lifting heavier weights, my cardio improved and I can do harder workouts for a lot longer now.”