As a spectator and fan, it’s incredibly hard to know just how much of the result at Red Bull Joyride comes down to what is surely an immense level of pressure to perform on the biggest stage of the year, the weather/the wind, or the sheer length of the course. Given that quite a few riders saw their run go wrong pretty early on in the course sort of rules out the latter, but for those that slip up further down, perhaps it’s a part of it?
However, there has to be a level of stress affecting the riders that we mortals can’t fathom, but with them being the professional athletes that they are, they’re surely okay with it, at least to an extent. Then there is the wind. This year a number of the big events have dealt with less than favourable wind and today we saw it affect a number of the worlds best, including Triple Crown hopeful, Nicholi Rogatkin, causing him to slip up on a relatively straight forward (for him) barspin on the shark fin before the big final feature. Even Semenuk had his issues due to it, with his victory lap slowed by a gust that resulted in him being caught in a big whip off the second jump of the four-pack.
It was a different setting to previous years for Semenuk and fans, though. The now five-time victor of the biggest slopestyle event in the world started out completely “cold turkey”, being the first rider down the course when it counted, not having the opportunity to watch any of his peers ride before him and get the adrenaline flowing. It didn’t really seem to bother him though, stomping the entire run first thing in the morning, first time, with all of the pressure. He slipped up on a couple of tricks where he wanted more, but in the end he knew that a second run would give him the opportunity to expand on those holes in his run; including a more extended version of his backflip candy bar—the first seen in competition—off the massive final drop into the finish corral. Fortunately for him, he never needed that second run.
Young Swede, Emil Johansson was looking to continue his already stellar 2017, and no doubt improve on his fourth place here in 2016—the very event where he exploded onto the world stage of slopestyle and became a name to note. Emil’s first run, the one that held him in that second place position, seemed almost like a warm-up for him. With little upsetting him all of the way down the course, including the second jump in the four-pack, which had been giving him problems all week long. The stylish tech wizard threw combination after combination all the way down with the effortless style and flow that we’ve come to expect from him. It looked like he had more in the tank, but during his second run, while trying to improve his score, he slipped up one too many times and missed a couple of extra moves, resulting in a score that couldn’t improve on his first.
Ryan Nyquist, the legendary BMX rider and recent transplant to slopestyle mtb, put in a stormer of a first run, landing himself in a podium position until Messere bumped him temporarily. His second run contained a couple of added combinations and links, including a 720 barspin into an opposite 360 suicide no-hander over the hip, but he held it together to the bottom, somehow continuing to throw down big combos after small slip-ups that would have seen many other competitors straight air the next feature. He finished the run with a score that just edged out Messere (84.8 over Messere’s 84.2) and landed him his first podium appearance at a Diamond Series event.
A good amount of the world's best slopestyle riders struggled to put a clean run in on the challenging Joyride course, with wind and nerves getting the better of many at least once during competition.
The favorite's battled hard but were unlucky in their quest. All week people spoke of Rogatkin's chance at the Triple Crown and the possibility that Rheeder, who has battled with him since returning from injury, could put a stop to that dream.
With Rogatkin and Rheeder out, the battle for the podium intensified, with Emil Johansson, Anthony Messere, and the legend, Ryan Nyquist duking it out.
Semenuk threw down on the very first run of the day and had to wait patiently to see if any of his competitors would force him to tidy up a couple of little bobbles in his run. One by one they fell short, leaving him the winner of his fifth Red Bull Joyride.
Three generations of riders fill the 2017 Red Bull Joyride podium.
/ @natedh9 @davetrumpore