Words by Tomas Lemoine
A piercing sound breaks the darkness that is my Innsbruck hotel room. Scrambling for my phone to turn off the alarm clock, I take a look at the time. 07:30... It’s too early, but it’s contest day and practice starts in less than two hours. Time to get up, shower, have breakfast.
But let’s start at the beginning. Three months earlier, it’s the end of March and I just boarded the first of several planes on my way to New Zealand. The Slopestyle season is finally back from its winter break and I’m amped to ride! There are a lot of things on the agenda once I touch down in Rotorua – I’ll be racing Pumptrack and Slopestyle this week, so I’ll need to see how everything fits together.
I’m feeling good, feeling fast, and more ready than ever before. There’s also a Speed & Style competition, but I let that one slide this time. I go through all my different practice sessions and hang out with guys I haven’t seen since last year, but also guys I ride with regularly back in France, so the vibes are always good.
Time flies in Rotorua, so before I know it, it’s the night of the Pumptrack finals and I am STOKED! The track is super techy and it’s running really well. I hit the track fast and fly through the first two rounds, racing against Jackson Davis and Cody Johnson, before facing the speedy Swede – Martin Söderström. We battle it out in two insanely close and fast runs, but a Swedish slip gives me the advantage!
The semifinal round is against Michael Bias who, just like me, has a race-BMX background, so this is going to be intense! I’ve got a 0.12-second advantage heading into the second heat, so I’ve still got to push! Michael goes down ahead of the rollers – man, he was pulling out all the stops to get that win. I’m already on the podium, but you know I want that gold!
It’s a French final, and I’m battling Chaney Guennet. I launch out of the gate, manual the first two rollers, get a couple pumps in and in the corner of my eye I can see I’m pulling ahead. I keep it low on the final rollers, pick up more time there, and finish with a 0.40-second advantage.
Everything goes right for me in the second heat – a flawless start and an awesome flow have me fired up, so I know I can take this home. Chaney turns up the heat, and I’m only slightly ahead in that final turn, but this is my race and I push hard through the final part of the track and across the line. The first Gold Medal of the season in the first event, not a bad start!
I don’t have time to celebrate though as it’s all eyes on the weekend’s Slopestyle finals! Weather delays push the schedule back, so we’ve got to wait longer until we can actually ride, and then the whole final gets moved to the next day. Damn…
After what feels like forever, we finally get to ride. I’m hyped to see what the boys have been working on. I’m one of the last riders to drop in, so I get to see a lot of the homies do their runs before me – I’m always stoked to see guys like Pages and Genon ride. Looks like Diego has been busy during the off-season, throwing some big tricks and finishing his run with a Frontflip Superman! So sick!
I clear my head and focus on what I came here to do – inject some style into these finals! I drop in and get into my flow right away, even before hitting the first feature. I stomp my first few tricks before I get to one of my favorites – a 360 Intable to Barspin! Everything is going smooth, so I bust out the Flipwhip on the final feature – I land a little sideways, but quickly correct. Stoked with that run! At the end of the first heat, I’m sitting in 4th position. There’s definitely room to improve, but I’m pretty stoked with that.
Feeling on point in my second run, so It’s time to bring in the Backflip Double Tailwhip. My foot slips on the landing, but doesn’t touch the ground and I manage to get it back on the pedal. After celebrating with a couple of high fives with the boys, I wait for my score to come in. I’m sure I improved, but by how much? 89.75! Up from 78.50…that’s huge! That puts me in third place and on the podium. Right now, I’m sandwiched between Diego and Nicholi – but there are a couple big dogs like Genon, Rogatkin and Rheeder still waiting to drop.
Genon’s run is a banger and he pushes me down to 4th place. Nicholi goes for the 1440 on the last trick, but goes down hard. He’s ok though, so I breathe a sigh of relief. Always sucks to see a friend go down. Only Rheeder is left at the top now, so my 4th place is safe. Finishing just off the podium is a bit of a letdown, but it definitely fires me up for the rest of the season. There’s no time to chill though…my schedule is full this year – got GlemmRide, two FISE stops, three more CWX stops and a few other things in between…
This story is about Crankworx though, so let’s jump forwards in time to the second stop of the SWC - Innsbruck, Austria.
Innsbruck week starts on Wednesday with some slopestyle practice. I hit the track with the guys and get in a couple of laps to work on my tricks before heading over to the Pumptrack for Qualies. I make it through the round of 32 and I’m stoked for the next rounds. It’s always awesome to race against the boys but the competition is strong this time. Austin “Bubba” Warren takes me out in the round of 16 by a super-tight margin the next day, so Pumptrack is over early for me this time.
No time to rest – I’m up early the next morning because Speed and Style is coming up. It’s going to be a heavy day with a lot of riding, so I fuel up before hopping in the car with Tommy G and Pages.
The Speed & Style course is looking prime – dry and ready to go. I get in a couple early laps to dial in my run and then head over to the slopestyle course, trying to get in as much time as possible before having to race. Once I feel dialed, I head over to the SRAM tent to chill out a bit – listen to some tunes, scroll through Instagram and chat with some of the other guys.
In the first heat, I’m up against Marcin Rot, who has been on fire this whole week, but I get through both heats with a high score and a fast lap to face Louis Reboul next. I spend a lot of time riding with Louis back at home, so racing against him is pretty sick. He can definitely style it up, but so can I and I’ve been getting 90’s all day. I’m feeling good about this one. Louis tries a huge transfer on the triple in the second heat, but cases it, losing all his speed, which puts me straight into the semifinals.
It feels like everything is going my way today, but Tom van Steenbergen is definitely making me work hard for those 90s I’ve been scoring, by throwing a Cashroll and a Frontie-Tuck in his run. We’re pretty evenly matched in Heat 2, but Tom can’t stick the double flip on the final booter, leading to a gnarly bail. Hope you’re ok, dude!
In the finals, I’m up against Sam Reynolds. This dude is fast and is packing some big tricks, so it’s going to be a good final! Having scored high on all my previous runs, I do the same run as before, because I know it’s a strong one. I style it up in the second heat to bring home the win! I land a new trick; a 360 Double Bar to X-Up, which gets me 95 points, and stick another Flip Barspin on the second jump. I’m pretty sure I got this, so it’s time to throw some fists in the air.
Stepping on a podium is always pretty special, but winning this contest for the second year in a row just makes it amazing. This is what gets me stoked to compete in all the different disciplines. Sam and Greg get the drop on me with the champagne and I get soaked. I’m stoked for them both, so its time to celebrate a bit. It’s almost time for the big show though, so once again, I call it an early night.
It’s Slopestyle Saturday, the big day, the final. This is what I’m here for! I get my bike dialed in and the SRAM guys hook it up with some fresh decals, so I’m good to go for finals! I send a couple texts to my friends and hit up Instagram to make sure everyone knows about the livestream. Right before I drop in, I grab a little dirt off of my cranks and rub it onto my palms for grip and wait for the signal.
I love sticking original tricks in my run, so I style it up with a 360 Intable to Barspin, following it up with an Oppo 360 No Hand. Next, I crank it up with a Backflip Tailwhip and hear the crowd go nuts! Good sign. I land it, roll out and try to catch my breath while I wait for the score to come in. 77.50 puts me in second place for now – good spot to be in for my second run, but I still got juice left in the tank.
My second run feels a lot better, a lot smoother. I land almost everything cleaner, but miss a Barspin off of the boner log, which is going to cost me. I add a Tuck No Hander to the Frontflip on the step-up and now it’s time for the big one, the one that put me on the podium here last year – the Backflip Double Tailwhip. I’m super stoked the moment I land it and bust out the fist pump in celebration.
I get a higher score for this run, an 83.00, but Diego sneaks ahead of me on the podium with an 84... 4th place again. 1st in Speed and Style and 4th in Slopestyle, it’s been a pretty good week for me.
The contests are over, so it’s time to check out the Innsbruck nightlife before going back to France tomorrow. Less than a week to go until I ride another three events in Les Gets, so it’s time for a little bit of recovery and a couple easy rides in between.
Part II coming soon.
Photos by Boris Beyer, Szymon Nieborak and DopeHammer