The first ever European Slopestyle contest in Saalbach Hinterglemm surpassed people’s keenest imaginations. Expectations were high due to the quality of the course designed by Canadian freerider Gareth Dyer (Fiat Rotwild adidas) -“if he does it, it must be good” – and a world class starter field. But the incredible show the riders from around the world put on today, left spectators and organisers literally speechless.
Living French downhill and 4Cross legend Cedric ‘C-Dog’ Gracia (Siemens mobile Cannondale) won the high class competition with 45.7 points out of 50 in front of German ‘Mr. Double Backflip’ Timo Pritzel (Scott USA) with 43.6 points and Czech Red Bull rider Michal Marosi (Specialized) who tied with Mickael Deldycke (Fiat Rotwild) from France with 43.3 points. American Cameron McCaul (Ellsworth) placed fifths with 41.7 points.
Riders flew in Thursday and Friday to participate in the adidas Slopestyle in Austria. When they observed the course, it was love on first sight. “The course is cool”, said Steve Romaniuk from Canada. “It is diverse enough for everyone and appeals to every discipline. Whether you like drops or are a good dirt jumper, a freerider or a downhiller – everybody can win it”, added the ‘Romaniac’, who had placed fifth at the Rampage. “Well, the all-rounder wins it”, predicted American Tyler ‘Super T’ Klassen, who trained with the bunch but didn’t compete today, since he had just recently broken his foot. “It is difficult and challenging. Actually it is one of the craziest Slopestyles I have ever seen.” Head judge Tarek Rasouli from Germany agreed. “What Saalbach Hinterglemm set up here together with Gareth Dyer, adidas and Planet Talk is staggering and I am glad that we finally have a competition with the quality of a Rampage in Europe.”
American Randy Spangler (Santa Cruz), with 37 years the oldest rider in the field, was excited to compete with so many different nations. “It is awesome to meet all the European guys. I met some great talents here.”
Twenty-eight riders from nine countries started at the qualification. They had to perform two runs out of which the best one was counted. Five judges could give a maximum of 10 points. For the spectators, the qualification runs were already a highlight, but in their own terms, the riders started moderately. “You want to qualify strong, but you don’t want to show everything before the finals”, Spangler said.
Mickael Deldycke was the first on the course. The French downhill vice champion, who came out to Saalbach Hinterglemm for a team shooting, decided only five minutes prior to the start of the competition to take part. Due to the changing weather conditions – it had rained throughout the training, but was sunny during the contest – the riders first had to adapt to the new state of the course. “The ground dried quickly, which made the course much faster and more technical”, Cedric Gracia explained. “You have to brake more than in the training” Gareth Dyer added, who nearly crashed when his pants got caught performing an X-up at one of the dirt jumps.
A total of twenty riders qualified for the finals – eleven Europeans and nine North Americans started in reverse order. Young and talented Swiss Downhill Champion Samuel Zbinden (Specialized) was the first to hit the “Motherf*cker” Jump – a fifteen metre wide gap jump in the upper third of the Slopestyle. His performance was soon put in the shade by Mickael Deldycke who staged a perfect and smooth Giant Drop-Motherf*cker Jump-combination and Michal Marosi, who hit the two wall rides exceptionally well and had a perfect dirt line with some great whips in his final run. The two tied with 43.3 points and took the lead. The spectators were excited. Then it was German ‘T-Mo’ Pritzel’s turn, one of the best dirt jumpers in the final bunch, who had never jumped big drops before. At the adidas Slopestyle he gave it a go – and landed perfectly. With two clean and very high wall rides and a stylish back flip X-up at the last jump – the ‘Big Daddy’ – he was in the lead.
Now the crowd went mad. The last rider on the top was Cedric Gracia. He also decided to start with the giant 8 metre high drop, then he jumped the 15 metre gap jump one handed. “I actually wanted to jump it as a suicide”, he explained later, “but that was too sketchy.” Instead the Rampage winner finished with a stylish suicide (both arms stretched to the back) after a flawless performance on the challenging Slopestyle course, which was awarded by the 5 judges with the best scores of the day and with 4000 Euros prize money. “I am so glad that there are finally people that pull off such an Event in Europe, because we are so far behind”, Cedric said after the competition. “And sponsors like adidas that trust us and realize that this is a sport and not some brainless stunt. We may party harder than others, but we are not stupid. And we need big events like this to develop the sport in Europe. We have great riders here, but they cannot compare themselves with the North Americans.”
Despite many spectacular crashes, there was no serious injury.
After the adidas Slopestyle, ten riders battled in a Dirt Jump Jam Session to determine the GoaßKing and win a special prize that was donated by Goaßstall owner Toni Enn. After a thirty minute session the riders showed their best tricks in two runs. The battle of ten became a battle of two - back flip specialists John Jesme (USA) and Timo Pritzel. Jesme, who rode with an injured foot, was hit by bad luck. He had two flats during the session, but remained cool and impressed the judges with an exceptional performance of a 360 and a stylish back flip. Then T-Mo pulled off two super clean back flip X-ups which made him the GoaßKing champion. He was awarded by Toni and two ‚hoaßen Goaßn’ (hot Babes) with 1000 Euros, a special adidas GoaßKing robe and a real baby goat, which was baptised with his name. Goaß Timo will continue to live at the Goaßstall, but T-Mo can visit her through the internet, since Toni Enn will install a web cam in her shed.
Famous Goaßstall (goat shed) was also the place where the riders partied with Cedric, Timo and their ‚hoaßen Goaßn’ until dawn.
for more photos from the day's competition and after party.