Flashback to Crankworx Whistler 2016. Jakub Vencl, a relative unknown in Crankworx competition, found himself up against slopestyle all-star Tomas Genon in the Clif Bar Dual Speed and Style. Genon ultimately out-tricked and out-raced Vencl, but the silver medal proved to be a foundation onto which he's continued to build. With two podium-topping performances in Crankworx Dual Speed and Style competitions this year, he's in the lead for the Dual Speed and Style World Tour as we hit the midway point in the season. He's also having one of his strongest slopestyle seasons yet, managing to make his way into the Crankworx Innsbruck Slopestyle presented by Kenda, his first time competing at this level. We talked to the fast and stylish Vencl ahead of Crankworx Innsbruck to hear a bit about what he's got and where he's going.Congrats on the win in DS&S. That’s two in a row now. How does it feel?
Obviously, super good. I’m super happy about that. I took second place in Whistler
last year, and at the time I was just thinking it was something worth trying, and I was surprised. Super happy, obviously. Taking the win in Rotorua
was great. Then going into Les Gets
, I wasn’t really putting that much pressure on myself. I was just thinking, “Ok, I have the win from New Zealand, so there’s nothing to lose.” That’s maybe one of the things that work for me—not really stressing myself too much. I was just trying to focus on myself. You’ve been on the slopestyle scene for a while and people know you from there, but for people who may not follow the FMB World Tour as closely, your performance at Crankworx Whistler last year kind of came out of nowhere, and coming in second behind Tomas Genon was a pretty big deal. How did that come about? Was it, as you say, just an idea that came to you that this discipline might suit you?
Sort of. I was just thinking, “I’m here. I’m in Canada for Crankworx. Maybe I’ll give it a try.” I’d never been there during Crankworx before. I thought I should at least try some of the disciplines that I could do since I wasn’t in for slopestyle. There were no big plans behind it. I hadn’t really practiced for that event specifically, but I thought I’d just try, and it ended up how it did. It’s interesting because you’ve obviously found a discipline that works really well for you.
It seems like it, yeah. We were talking to Mitch Ropelato last week and he was telling us just how hard this discipline is to compete in because to be able to go as fast as you can, then slow down and change your mental focus and do tricks, is really difficult. What do you think it is about this discipline that suits your riding style?
I really don’t know. It is difficult, I have to agree with that. It probably looks easier than it is. Usually when you do slopestyle or dirt jumps, you just figure out the speed and you keep coming for the jumps at the same speed, but obviously, this is kind of a mixture of racing and tricks. You’re trying to go as fast as you can, which doesn’t really suit doing tricks and jumps, so almost always, you have to brake for every single one of the jumps. It doesn’t maybe sound that bad, but it’s really difficult to do that. I think a big part of it, too, is the smart choice of the tricks. Maybe not to get too excited, and try to keep it kind of low-key, which is hard when you’re in competition mode. I guess it’s a balance since you have these two disciplines in one.
I would say so. The last one, there were three guys crashing when they were against me. Daryl Brown in the finals, Mitch Ropelato and Szymon Godziek in the round before. Maybe they all could have won their matches if they hadn't crashed, I don’t know. It was tight. I was also a little bit lucky, which plays a part in that. I think you have to be a little bit lucky that day to win. You mentioned a little bit about tricks and maybe not using your most difficult trick because you have to balance out the speed and you have to keep braking when you’re going into it. Are you thinking about working on new tricks before a Dual Speed and Style competition?
I do practice, that’s for sure, but I don’t think about the tricks before. I usually decide when I get to the course because then you see how the jumps are and then you adjust everything. I have way more tricks than I’m doing in the Dual Speed and Style since I was basically just repeating the same kind of tricks all the time. They just work. They’re tricks I can do at any kind of speed and on any kind of jump. I’m safe with them. That’s definitely part of the game. Choose the tricks you’re comfortable with. That’s what I’m doing. I did something else for the last round with Daryl Brown in Les Gets, but overall that formula is what works for me. I’m definitely not doing the biggest tricks I normally do in a dirt jump or slopestyle event. Maybe that event then favours the dirt jumpers, because we don’t have to do the biggest tricks we can do, we can choose tricks that are a lot more casual for us, whereas the racers, they have to do the biggest tricks they can do. Let’s talk about the bike you’ll be riding in the Mons Royale Dual Speed and Style at Crankworx Innsbruck.
Rose Bikes, The Bruce
Frame Size: Large
Bar width: 750mm 2" rise Azonic Flow bars
Grips: Azonic Logo grips
Stem: Azonic Riot 40mm
Suspension setup: 110mm travel RST Stitch I run about 140psi with custom set-up cartridge which makes it extra stiff
Pedals: Azonic World Force
Wheel size: 26" Alex rims wheels
Carbon vs. aluminium wheels: aluminium
Brakes: Shimano XT
Air vs. coil suspension: Air
Gearing: 34/14 is my regular gear, I might switch to 32/14 or even 34/15 if needed
Tyres: Conti Race King or X-King depends on the conditions
Tyre pressures: About 4.5bar Pulling in these really solid results, does that give you a confidence boost heading into the next Dual Speed and Style event, maybe even the slopestyle events you're competing in? Or does it add a bit more pressure? There’s definitely more eyes on you now.
Not really. I would say, at least, I’m trying not to think about it that way. It calms me down a bit knowing I already have some great results going in, so whatever happens, it’s been good already. I’m just going to try to do my best, again. The overall win would be great, but I think it would be better to go step by step. I’m trying not to think about it, really. I’ve been having a really great season, outside of Crankworx, as well. Plus, I won the wildcard to do the slopestyle here. So I’d say it makes me more relaxed and helps me to just enjoy the experience and do the best I can. Especially with the four stops now, it’s a long season. We’re only half way through.
It’s been good so far for me. For the Dual Speed and Style series
I have a good lead. I checked that after Les Gets. No one else did really well in both Rotorua and Les Gets. We’ll see though. We’ve seen some other really strong competitors this year, including Ropelato, Loron, Slavik, etc. Who do you think your biggest threats are?
There’s a lot of guys. The one’s you named, they’re big competitors, obviously, then Daryl Brown is super fast and he has the tricks, and also Greg Watts. If Kyle Strait can put it together, he’s a great competitor as well. And not to forget Barry Nobles. He’s an insanely good racer. It’s great to see he’s putting in the work to learn tricks. There are so many guys, really. That’s what's also interesting about the discipline. Seriously, I would say in Rotorua I felt like almost anyone who was in the race could have taken it. There are a least 15 guys who are strong enough to get on the podium. And that’s cool for us. It’s also cool for spectators. Absolutely. And I think it’s really cool, as you say, that for someone like Barry Nobles, it’s pushing him to look beyond speed, which he has, and work on some tricks. It pushes people outside their comfort zone.
Definitely. We were talking about that recently, that someone like Tomas Slavik, who obviously, he’s fast, and if it was just about racing, he might have no competition, because he’s just the fastest, that’s for sure. He’s also always trying though, to put some tricks in his runs, which is cool to see. It’s something you don’t always see from guys like that. It makes it interesting for people who’ve maybe been following these athletes in other disciplines, to see them changing gears.
Totally. It’s an interesting mixture of guys. I don’t think I would ever compete in any other discipline with Tomas Slavik or someone like that. It’s cool to stand next to those guys. I think it’s also cool to see the different kind of attitude for the race. For example, for myself, I’m not the racer in my head. You can see the racers like that. They’re just in their zone. I’m more relaxed and just trying to do my best. I’m still super motivated, but it’s a different background and a different mindset. Let’s talk a little bit about slopestyle since you’ll be competing in the Crankworx Innsbruck Slopestyle presented by Kenda on Sunday. What’s your background in Crankworx slopestyle specifically?
I did the qualification in Les 2 Alpes in 2014, but didn’t get in. I crashed, so that was the only time. I was close to getting invited in 2012, but then I tore my ACL in America when I was on my way to Whistler. The plan had been to do two events in America and then go to Whistler. I was in 10th or 11th spot in the standings at that time, so that would have been enough. But, I didn’t get there. So that was that year. Once I was an alternate, but I didn’t get it. So I was close a couple times. This must be exciting for you then. You’ve had a solid season so far, with your DS&S win in Rotorua, and now in Les Gets, and a fourth place finish at 26trix in Leogang, behind heavy hitters like Diego Caverzasi, Nicholi Rogatkin, and Simon Pages, and ahead of Emil Johansson who’s been doing really well at Crankworx recently. From what I could see that’s your second best result at a Gold event so far, behind your third place finish at Maxxis slopestyle in 2015. How’s your slopestyle game feeling at the moment going into your first Crankworx slopestyle event?
I’m feeling comfortable and good on the bike lately. I might be a little different from the other guys. I might not have the biggest tricks, but I think I’m really consistent, from how long I’ve been riding. I’ve seen the course and it looks really good. It’s going to be a strong competition, I believe. Same as Dual Speed and Style though, I really want to enjoy it. It’s been working for me, having that attitude this year. 26trix for me was probably the most chilled competition run I’ve had ever. I felt really safe with the stuff I was doing. That was part of the really good score I got. It was a super clean run. So that’s the approach I’d like to have here as well. Though it’s a way bigger course and a way bigger competition, so there’s going to be pressure for sure, but I’ll try to keep it mellow for myself. That’ll be the key, hopefully. Well you’ve built quite a name for yourself in Crankworx competition, so I think there’ll be a lot of people cheering for you.
Dual Speed and Style is important for me, but slopestyle has been my main discipline. I’ve been working to get to the diamond events for so long. This could be the one shot that I have to maybe build up the points and hopefully stay there for a little bit longer. So I’ll be playing it smart. That’s kind of the way I ride. I would say I have crazy style, but I’m a very consistent rider. So that’s my plan.
Watch Jakub Vencl go for number three in the Mons Royale Dual Speed & Style at Crankworx Innsbruck, LIVE right here on Pinkbike and on crankworx.com.
Thursday, June 22, 5:30–7:30p.m. CEST
Thursday, June 22, 8:30–10:30a.m. PST
Friday, June 23, 3:30–5:30a.m. NZST