Red Bull's Crashed Ice extreme skating competition came roaring back to St. Paul for a second run Thursday, but instead of taking out thrill-seekers with its sheer drops, tight turns and 40-mile-per hour speeds, the event itself got sidelined -- by ice.
Crash it did indeed, when frigid temperatures caused the winding ice track, made from 25,000 gallons of water, to crack and chip more than usual. A shootout between U.S. athletes was postponed to late afternoon for track maintenance.
Still, hearty spectators braved conditions to see Mayor Chris Coleman and council members take an early run.
St. Paul native and current Delaware resident Pete Noth and his friend, Marion Ott, watched Coleman's run.
"There's just a great thrill and energy behind it," Noth said of the Crashed Ice event.
Coleman, who wiped out last year, expertly navigated an early portion of the track.
"This is the coolest thing ever," Coleman said. "I wasn't quite as afraid of what I faced" this year.
The event last year drew an estimated 80,000 spectators. Coleman said that many or more could turnout this year. It coincides with the Winter Carnival, which kicks off this week.
City officials said the combination will be a boon to St. Paul. Coleman spokesman Joe Campbell estimated that Crashed Ice alone last year brought the city about $20 million, which they expect to match or surpass this year.
After several runs, Coleman, along with council members Melvin Carter III and Chris Tolbert also climbed close to the 48-foot-high starting line, which is about a story and a half taller than last year's track. They also skated a more challenging portion of the 1,300-foot-long track that involved a straight drop of about 3 feet that took out Coleman and Tolbert. Carter successfully maneuvered it.
"No broken bones is a success," Tolbert said.
Team USA coach Charlie Wasley said that the higher starting point will shoot athletes out at 40 mph and that the course is more technical than last year. Thousands of athletes across the country competed to qualify to race in St. Paul.
"You never go that fast on skates," said competitor Sever Lundquist of St. Paul. "It was probably the coolest thing I've ever done."
Minnesotans claimed four spots on the touring national team. Among them is St. Cloud resident Cameron Naasz, who is ranked among the top 64 athletes in the sport worldwide and finished second at a competition in Niagara Falls last month.
"It's an amazing sport," said Naasz, a native of Lakeville who will be competing this weekend. "It's a one-of-a-kind sport."
Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708 Twitter: @ChaoStrib