The penultimate day of Crankworx Whistler 2018 saw a smoke-filled Boneyard play host to a jaw-dropping festival of freeride. Red Bull Joyride this year was hotly anticipated, especially given the battle between two of its biggest claimants for the crown; Nicholi Rogatkin and Brett Rheeder. The former was on a journey to lay claim to the win in Whistler plus the Triple Crown of Slopestyle, while the latter was looking to reclaim the top step having only won here once back in 2016 but otherwise always seeming to be in the shadow of the now absent Semenuk.
The first of two runs for the athletes saw an impressive start by a super smooth looking Emil Johansson, who impressed the judges so much he secured 84.5. Filled with emotion at the end of his run, we would see him wiping away tears and then being consoled by a just as emotional Soderstrom; Johansson was finally back in slopestyle.
Those who followed him would find it difficult to do better. Torquato Testa took a slam early on in his run, leaving him on a 27.5 going into the next round. Jakub Vencl managed a solid 72.0 despite only having had the call to compete a few hours before the competition commenced. Lukas Knopf scored a 62.25 which wasn’t a bad start to his first ever Joyride. Next up was Matt Jones - the only rider not wearing a full face helmet - and he reminded the crowd how smooth he is on track, including an impressive double backflip into a 720. The crowd went wild but despite his efforts he only managed a score of 68.5. Szymon Godziek infused his motocross style throughout his run and by all accounts ticked all the boxes, especially looking so calm and composed as he maintained his speed all the way down. Despite being called ‘Prince of Progression’ based on his previous appearances at Joyride where his tricks year on year would impress the judges each time, his efforts on his first run would only give him a score of only 61. Ryan Nyquist put down clean tricks as you would expect but on the last feature where we thought he would throw a 360 down, he didn’t manage to and just table-topped it. It made an impact as the judges awarded him 53.75. Anthony Messere rode his usual light-speed down the track but he came undone when trying to attempt a 360 tailwhip out from the Cabin feature. Previous Joyride winner Thomas Genon would be fighting for not just a podium place but also a place on next year’s FMBA World Tour. His tricks were smooth and flawless, despite slipping the pedal once just before the Kokanee Drop, and was awarded 77.75.
Newcomer to Joyride, Erik Fedko, would make a lasting impression, securing him a massive score of 88.25, knocking Johansson off the top step. Throwing his goggles into the crowd, he was clearly delighted that he managed to lay down his run and didn’t need to do anymore. Diego Caverzasi would be up next but would be nursing a possible broken thumb going into the competition after crashing earlier in practice. He would end up scoring 41.25 having ridden through the pain and throwing down some impressive tricks. The multi-talented Tomas Lemoine was also suffering from a crash the day before, although he managed a lot of triple combos. With a front flip onto the last feature and a truck-driver off, he scored 65.5.
Rogatkin laid down a classic run full of flawless spins, flips and consistent speed, including a double tailwhip off the Kokanee Drop. He would slot into first place with a score of 92.75. Last man down the course for the first run was Brett Rheeder; starting with a half-cab off the start drop, Rheeder wouldn’t hold back, including a oppo cork 720 into the Cabin, followed by a triple truck-driver out, but despite even more combos than you could shake a stick at, Rheeder’s run would abruptly come to an end of the Kokanee Drop as he tried a flat backflip tailwhip and miscalculated the rotation. He would walk away with a score of 50.25 and a whole lot of pressure for his second and final run.
The calm before the storm.
With the second run in full swing, and with so many of the top riders having to make their second run count, all eyes were on Rheeder who took to the track early in the final riders because of his below-par first run. Rheeder pulled an amazing set of tricks, adding more to his first run, he stomped the landing of his flat backflip tailwhip off the Kokanee Drop into the finish corral. The crowd went wild - we all knew that that was a killer run and one that Rogatkin would find hard to beat. The judges would score him a 94.50 and as he waited in the finish corral, his and everyone else’s eyes looked up to the last man down the Boneyard - Nicholi Rogatkin.
We’ve seen pressure like this before, think Soderstrom in 2013, and we all wondered whether the Triple Crown would have to wait another year. Rogatkin with the look of steely determination took to the course and like a man possessed with a combination of super-fast lightning and slopestyle mastery, he picked off each feature one by one, laying down an impressive set of tricks as he went, including his signature Twister, double backflips, and additional barspins wherein the first run he kept things straight. His run looked to be much cleaner than his first attempt too.
There was a sense of wonder in the air… could this be the run that would secure him the win and the elusive Triple Crown? It looked like it but would the judges think that as well? Side by side stood Rogatkin with Rheeder as they waited for the results. Time ticked on and then finally the score appeared on screen - 96.50. Rogatkin exploded with joy and relief; he had accomplished what no one else had managed to do so before him.
The dawn of the Rogatkin has finally come to pass.
The day may have been Rogatkin's, but let's spare a thought for Rheeder who fought right till the end.
1. Nicholai Rogatkin - 96.50
2. Brett Rheeder - 94.50
3. Erik Fedko - 88.25 Full Results
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