While a good many among us find ourselves cursing the ice this time of year, Blake Svensson, 24, relishes the opportunity and the challenge of tearing around on a frozen surface on a high-powered Honda two-wheeler.
Svensson, a 2011 Bloomington High School graduate, is among the top contenders for the World Championship ICE Racing title when the 2018 Next Generation Fire on Ice tour visits Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington on Saturday night.
After garnering Rookie of the Year honors in 2015 and finishing fourth in the series last year, Svensson again is among the leaders in the standings heading into Saturday's 7 p.m. event.
"I like the fact that I can compete year round and avoid cabin fever in the winter," said Svensson, a veteran of motocross and flat track motorcycle racing. "I've always wanted to do the ice thing. I grew up watching this series and I thought these were the coolest, craziest guys I'd ever seen.
"Now I see kids looking at me the same way," he added, proud of his newfound standout status among the cool and the crazy.
Svensson will climb atop his Honda on Saturday with a bit of momentum. He won both flat track and TT motorcycle races on an indoor dirt track at the state fairgrounds in DuQuoin last weekend.
He returns to the ice for the third of nine World Championship ICE Racing events this season. Svensson finished sixth in the series opener on Dec. 9 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and fifth on Dec. 15 in Topeka, Kan.
"Pennsylvania is known for having tons of fast racers," Svensson said. "Just to make the top eight was a goal of mine. I was on a completely new bike that I'd never ridden before, let alone on the ice. I went from a Suzuki to a Honda and had some issues with the clutch, but got it figured out by the second round."
At Topeka, Svensson earned his top-five after being involved in a tight-racing-quarters skirmish that's common in indoor arena racing.
"I was running fourth most of the race and I got slammed," he said. "It was either slamming back or tucking in and finishing fifth."
He opted for the latter, a decision he says he wouldn't have been likely to make when he first began competing on ice.
"I've matured a lot since I started racing this," Svensson said. "Ice racing has taught me a lot of patience. It's hard to get slam-passed and then not want to pass them back the same way in the next corner. It's taught me discipline and patience and I learned if I ride smooth and consistent, I usually have good finishes."
Svensson's bike is fielded by a team headquartered in Alton. He gets sponsorship support from Pro Tire and Automotive of Bloomington, as well as B13 Handcrafted Ink, a motorcycle shop in Danvers.
Svensson competes in the Manufacturer's Cup division. Unlimited Outlaw Quads also will race with professional motorcycle stunt riders on the evening's card as well.
Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adult general admission and $25 for reserved seats.