It took six years, but at last Whistler's Brandon Semenuk, 20, won the slopestyle event at Kokanee Crankworx, firing up the crowd of 20,000 spectators and putting a few personal demons to rest in the process.
"A lot of people put a big emphasis on this contest, and it's kind of more pressure than normal... obviously it's my home town," said Semenuk of the Red Bull Joyride - one of the few events on the Freeride Mountain Bike World Tour that he hadn't won. "But I rode it like other events, and I've definitely been pretty close to first place the last four years. But it's pretty hard not to get nervous about it and worry too much, so I'm super amped to finally hold a run that takes the win."
For a moment it looked like a bad replay of 2010. His first run was tight and technical with a 360 off the top drop, a tailwhip over the truck gap, a backflip and x-up over the big jump, a huge table over the SRAM hip, an x-up onto the curved ramp and another 360 off the ramp and a backflip-tailwhip off the bottom air. Where it went wrong was off the final Kokanee Cabin jump where he couldn't get his bike back under him in time and crashed.
"I didn't think I had it," said Semenuk of his mindset after the crash - over-rotating his flip-whip off the bottom Kokanee Cabin jump. "That only gave me one more chance to try and put a run together to get into the finals. It's not a huge confidence booster, but it definitely gave me some drive to get that (second run). I put everything together, and I was stoked that it held up to the finish."
The second run was identical to the first with a little more air and some smoother landings, and his flip-whip at the bottom was perfect. That put him ahead of Nevada's Cameron Zink, the reigning champion, who was sitting on top with a 94.0 and 15-year-old Anthony Messere of Surrey - an incredible up and coming rider who got the most air of any athlete on the SRAM hip and landed a flip-whip of his own over the cabin jump to rank third with a 92.8.
Once the qualifier was over, the top eight riders went to a super final where they were given an additional run. Semenuk would get to go last so he'd have a chance to regain the lead if anybody succeeded in beating him.
Both Zink and Messere pulled out all the stops, with Zink landing a superman seat grab and backflip off the big dirt jump at the top and Messere launching a gutsy front flip off the start ramp, but both riders had crashes on their runs and couldn't top Semenuk.