The biggest showdown in town is nearly upon us. On Saturday afternoon, 14 of the world’s most talented slopestyle riders will take to the hallowed ground in Whistler Bike Park’s Boneyard and commence battle against each other as they strive to claim the title of 2018 Red Bull Joyride champion.
Joyride in one form or another has existed at Crankworx Whistler since 2004 and Brandon Semenuk has been the most successful athlete in its history, achieving five victories to date. No one else has come close to that feat. However, with Semenuk announcing he won’t be competing this year, it leaves the candidacy for this year’s winner much more open.
However. saying that if we look at previous form throughout the 2018 Crankworx World Tour, the strongest contenders for the win on Saturday are Brett Rheeder and Nicholi Rogatkin. Rheeder is leading in the overall FMBA Slopestyle World Championship and put the first marker down by winning the opening round in Crankworx Rotorua. Meanwhile, Nicholi Rogatkin is hot on his heels and secured the win at both Crankworx Innsbruck and Les Gets. With those two wins under his belt, Rogatkin has a serious chance of being the first rider to ever win the illusive Crankworx Triple Crown of Slopestyle.
The remaining 12 other riders are a mix of Joyride stalwarts and a couple who are completely new to the competition. This Saturday we’ll also see a return of last year’s second-placed finisher Emil Johansson. He’s been out due to an injury and illness for the last 10 months so it’ll be great to see him back competing among his peers.
Before we go into the details about the event, let’s take a pause to consider Semenuk’s absence. After having won the competition so many times before on more or less the same course as it ever was, he could be forgiven to seek challenges elsewhere. It’s a shame not to see him take part; he is after all the Jedi master of the slopestyle galaxy. His not competing will no doubt be a relief to his competitors but, come Saturday, they will have to wonder whether their runs would have been able to stand against Semenuk’s. The challenge is now up to the Joyride organisers; how can they bring their most famous star back into the ring for next year? I’m sure there are lots of brains at work figuring that one out but meanwhile, Semenuk fans will now have to wait until Red Bull Rampage to see him compete, and make do with seeing him in slick films that make his riding look even more oh-so-flawless.
But to win it you need to be in it, and we have 14 competitors willing to wow us with their skills and flair. As we draw closer to Saturday, here’s a run down of all you need to know for that day.
Led by Paddy Kaye, the Joyride course has been sculpted and buffed to perfection by the infamous Joyride Bike Parks crew in preparation for the big event on Saturday. Kaye and his crew know a thing or two about the Joyride course, having been the brains behind its features and their flow every year since 2011. Each year brings adjustments here and there based on athlete feedback. All the while, Kaye makes sure the features are challenging enough but afford a degree of safety at the same time.
As hinted at the start of this article, there aren’t many changes this year compared to 2017, with the only tweaks being replacing the hips before the four-pack and the cabin with berms to aid the riders’ flow.
To get the taste buds going, here are a few photos from last evening’s practice session.
A tighter pack compared to last year where we saw 18 riders compete, this year the pack is down to 14, with two riders being new faces to Joyride; Erik Fedko and Bernd Winkler.
• Diego CAVERZASI // ITA
• Erik FEDKO // GER
• Max FREDRIKSSON // SWE
• Thomas GENON // BEL
• Szymon GODZIEK // POL
• Emil JOHANSSON // SWE
• Matt JONES // GBR
• Tomas LEMOINE // FRA
• Anthony MESSERE // CAN
• Ryan NYQUIST // USA
• Brett RHEEDER // CAN
• Nicholi ROGATKIN // USA
• Torquato TESTA // ITA
• Bernd WINKLER // AUT
What Happened At The Last Rounds
Rotorua - With the World Tour kicking off without Brandon Semenuk, attention was drawn to the battle between Brett Rheeder and Nicholi Rogatkin. With Rheeder scoring an incredible first run of 94.25, it was Diego Caverzasi who snuck into second place with a 90.5. The new versus old school theme then saw Thomas Genon turning up the heat, pushing Caverzasi into third place. All eyes were then on Rogatkin who charged through his usual trick-heavy run. It wasn’t to be for Rogatkin however; he crashed on the final jump, gifting the win to Rheeder.
Les Gets - Nicholi Rogatkin’s unbelievable first run secured him the highest score from the clearly impressed judges. If that wasn’t enough, he then put in an incredible second run, notching a score of 94.5. Although he put down an impressive second run, Brett Rheeder wasn’t able to get close to Rogatkin and could only manage a score of 92.
Innsbruck - Having pulled one of the strongest second runs that the slopestyle field could muster, it was Brett Rheeder who was heading the field after scoring 86.75. Rheeder used Innsbruck to showcase his new trick; a flat-drop backflip oppo-tailwhip, and with Nicholi Rogatkin only securing a ninth in his first place run, it was all down to the American to pull out all the stops in the second run. With his signature Twister off the second jump and then trick after jaw-dropping trick, Rogatkin secured first place with an impressive score of 93.0.
The prize money
Everyone’s a winner at Joyride and all 14 athletes will walk away from the event with cash in their back pocket. With a total amount of $60,000 set aside, the amount each rider gets is dependant on how they finish. Here’s the breakdown of the cash per finisher in Canadian dollars-
• 1st // $25,000
• 2nd // $10,000
• 3rd // $5,000
• 4th // $4,000
• 5th // $3,500
• 6th // $3,000
• 7th // $2,500
• 8th // $2,000
• 9th // $1,500
• 10th // $1,000
• 11th // $750
• 12th // $750
• 13th // $500
• 14th // $500
Crankworx FMBA Slopestyle Championship Standings
1st // Brett RHEEDER // CAN // 2800 // No change
2nd // Nicholi ROGATKIN // USA // 2656 // -144 // No change
3rd // Thomas LEMOINE // FRA // 2160 // -640 // Moves up from 5th
4th // Diego CAVERZASI // ITA // 2010 // -790 // Moves down from 3rd
5th // Erik FEDKO // GER // 1866 // -934 // Moves up from 6th
6th // Thomas GENON // BEL // 1804 // -996 // Moves down from 4th
7th // Simon PAGÈS // FRA // 1522 // -1278 // No change
8th // Anthony MESSERE // CAN // 1374 // -1426 // No change
9th // Ryan NYQUIST // USA // 1368 // -1568 // No change
10th // Szymon GODZIEK // POL // 1190 // -1610 // No change
In addition to the Crankworx Red Bull Joyride results and the Triple Crown, there’s also a $50,000 prize purse up for grabs in the Slopestyle World Championship overall. Here’s the breakdown of what’s on offer per finisher-
• 1st // $15,000
• 2nd // $10,000
• 3rd // $7,500
• 4th // $3,750
• 5th // $3,000
• 6th // $2,500
• 7th // $2,000
• 8th // $1,750
• 9th // $1,500
• 10th // $1,250
• 11th // $1,000
• 12th // $750
Crankworx Slopestyle Triple Crown
Riders must win three of the four Crankworx slopestyle events to be able to win one of the ultimate freeride honours; the Crankworx Slopestyle ‘Triple Crown’.
No one has managed it since its inception in 2015, which means no one has managed to claim the $25,000 (CAD) in prize money - imagine if it rolled over each year if no one won it!
This year, all eyes are on Rogatkin who to date has secured two wins from the previous three Crankworx slopestyle competitions. Can Rogatkin do what all others before him have failed?
What Happened Here Last Year
The crowning event at Crankworx Whistler saw a lot of riders getting it wrong early. This mixed things up considerably, as well as increasing the stress levels for riders on their second runs; even Semenuk made a few small mistakes on his first run but it didn’t matter. Others were doing the same and in the end he didn’t need to do anything further because no one else could better his score. The legend would take his fifth victory in Joyride.
2017 // Brandon SEMENUK // CAN
2016 // Brett RHEEDER // CAN
2015 // Brandon SEMENUK // CAN
2014 // Brandon SEMENUK // CAN
2013 // Brandon SEMENUK // CAN
2012 // Thomas GENON // BEL
2011 // Brandon SEMENUK // CAN
2010 // Cam ZINK // USA
2009 // Greg WATTS // USA
2008 // Andreu LACONDEGUY // ESP
2007 // Ben BOYKO // CAN
2006 // Cam ZINK // USA
2005 // Paul BASAGOITIA // USA
2004 // Paul BASAGOITIA // USA
Previous Winning Runs and Highlight Videos
There isn’t a complete archive of winning runs or highlights videos, but here’s just a few to get you all nostalgic.
This year’s judging panel will consist of Paul Rak (Head Judge), Grant ‘Chopper’ Fielder, Geoff Gulevich and Kraig Kinsman. All eyes will be on these guys as they mark up their scores. It’s going to be interesting to see how they judge the varied style of Rheeder and Rogatkin. Both have their strengths as do they have their weaknesses. The first round marks will show us whether they favour buttery smoothness or lightspeed rotations.
The Weather Forecast
Watching It In Person
Red Bull Joyride is an open event but it gets crowded quickly as people race to get the best vantage point. If you don’t fancy mingling with the general population and want to watch the competition from a hospitality tent then there are a couple of options:
• Red Bull Joyride VIP Experience (from $129 CAD)
• Crankworx Skybox at Red Bull Joyride presented by Bearfoot Bistro (from $649 CAD)
Must Know, Must See, Must Do
Before the invading Europeans took the land that Whistler stands on today, the area was shared between two First Nation communities; the Sk̲wx̲wú7mesh (Squamish) and L̓il̓wat7úl (Lil'wat). For thousands of years, the two communities lived side by side and used the area as a rich natural larder for food and materials. The area we now call Whistler was known to the Nations as Spo7ez.
The stories of their origins are intertwined and passed down generation after generation by the spoken word. The Sk̲wx̲wú7mesh story of Spo7ez goes back to when despite living with the L̓il̓wat7úl peacefully, things started to get difficult. The Thunderbird stepped in to stop them. The Thunderbird flapped his great wings which caused a rockslide, killing hundreds of people from both nations in Spo7ez village. For the L̓il̓wat7úl the story, the rockslide was caused by a massive volcanic eruption. The shared village of Spo7ez was destroyed and was swept into the ocean. Both stories reflect on the importance of peaceful coexistence and cooperation, and that both nations have a shared history.
Life for the Sk̲wx̲wú7mesh and L̓il̓wat7úl changed dramatically with the invasion of Europeans on their way to find precious metals and furs. With the permission of their governments in cities thousands of miles away, they would push the indigenous communities out, dividing up the land whichever way they wanted. The Sk̲wx̲wú7mesh and L̓il̓wat7úl would be rounded up into reservations while the Europeans plundered their land, and most of the indigenous population still live on the reservations today.
Pretending like the last few thousand years of culture and convention never happened, when the British Navy were out charting the coastal area and the land adjacent to it, they sighted its highest peak and clearly with all sorts of originality running through their veins, they named it London Mountain. The mountain would eventually change its name to Whistler Mountain, apparently on account for the scores of marmots whistling on it.
Fast forward into the early 20th century and while Europe was starting to battle it out on the fields of northern Europe in 1914, two people - Myrtle and Alex Philip - would call the shores of Alta Lake their home and establish a fishing and weekend retreat business there. They were soon followed by others trying to make their mark through leisure activities in the picturesque shadow of Whistler Mountain, and thanks to the Pacific Great Eastern railway, the tourists began arriving in their droves.
Over a hundred years later, Whistler is now the centre of all things mountain biking as well as being pretty alright in the winter months for skiing and snowboarding. Whistler was one of the main locations for the Vancouver Winter Olympics a few years ago.
Meanwhile, the local Sk̲wx̲wú7mesh and L̓il̓wat7úl nations are gaining greater acknowledgment for the ownership of their ancestral land. There’s still a long way to go but a must for when you’re in Whistler is to check out the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre just down from Whistler Village on your way to Lost Lake. Here you’ll receive a warm welcome (in form of a song), and be shown various items of importance to the people, including canoes, totem poles, and you’ll find out about how the nations lived off the land, never taking anything that they would waste. We have a lot to learn from this ancient culture, and the cafe is a must too (you have to try the bannock bread - a traditional flat bread - topped with venison chilli... yum!) Don’t forget either that all money spent at the Cultural Centre goes back into the First Nations community which is money well spent.
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If you’re in Whistler and you have a bit of time on your hands in between riding and watching other people riding (i.e. Crankworx), there’s plenty of other things to see and do. A must is to go up to the top of Whistler Mountain to get an incredible view of the Coastal Range. It’s chilly up there mind you, so don’t forget to wrap up warm. If you’re flush with cash you can get a helicopter ride up, and if you fancy riding down there’s room for your bike too. For those on foot, there’s the peak-to-peak chair which is a great experience as long as you’re not afraid of heights which is especially important if you’re lucky (or is that unlucky?) enough to get one of the gondolas with the ‘see through’ floor.
There are glacial treks, wildlife watching (I’m talking about actual wildlife not the population of the 2am dance floor in one of the many Whistler clubs) canoeing, paddle boarding, bobsleigh running (yes, the Whistler Sliding Centre is open in the summer, and the price of the ticket goes back into Whistler Sport Legacies, a not-for-profit organisation that provides access to sports for everyone of all ages and abilities), as well as plenty of museums and art great galleries to visit in between the people watching in the vibrant Whistler Village.
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Not Just For The Men
Saturday morning also sees the first-ever Riverside Women’s-Only Jump Jam. Kicking off at 10:45, this event is open to women (ages 16 and up) who fancy a punt at some air-time competition. There’s $500 up for grabs to the one rider who rises to the top and impresses the judges with their style over dirt jumps.
It’s great to see a women’s freeride comp getting back into the Crankworx calendar. A few years ago women used to compete on the slopestyle course but then it stopped. The more of these events the organisers support in real terms, the more inspiration it will give to future generations of female riders. Let’s hope that in that future the prize money and support from the industry will grow too because the vanguard for the women’s freeride movement need support and respect too.
The live show will be broadcast from the following times-
• Saturday 18 August // 16:30 // PDT
• Sunday 19 August // 01:30 // CEST
• Sunday 19 August // 00:30 // BST
• Sunday 19 August // 09:30 // AEST
• Sunday 19 August // 11:30 // NZSTNote: These times are subject to change. Pinkbike and Crankworx will provide updates to the coverage if they change - remember to keep checking Pinkbike’s homepage to avoid disappointment.