The sport of mountain bike slopestyle made its X Games debut this past weekend in Munich, Germany, with a huge urban course that was purpose-built for the event.
The crowd waited patiently after the event was postponed over five hours due to high winds. A few top athletes dropped out of the final — including Martin Soderstrom, Thomas Genon and Yannick Granieri — because of the delay and the high winds in training.
Ontario's Brett Rheeder, who is only in his second year competing at the top tier of mountain bike slopestyle, took the win with a run that scored 97.33. His sequence included a 360 off the opening step-down, followed by a flipwhip over the first air, a front flip with bar spin onto the step-up jump, a barspin onto a curved feature with another 360 off, a barspin off the wall ride, a bar spin on another small feature, a tailwhip off the next big jump, a backflip-barspin step-up, and a 360 off the bottom 10-metre drop and gap.
"This is unbelievable," said Rheeder. "We've wanted to have a slopestyle in the X Games forever, and to be the first one to win a gold medal in the event is easily the best result of my career."
Whistler's Brandon Semenuk, who won the overall Freeride Mountain Bike (FMB) World Tour the previous two years, had posted a 96.00 in the previous run. In the end there were four Canadians in the top five. Andreu Lacondeguy of Spain placed third, while Darren Berrecloth of Vancouver was fourth and Kurt Sorge from Nelson placed fifth. Cameron Zink of the U.S. was the only other rider to make the finals who started the last two runs, finishing sixth overall.
Rheeder now sits a solid first in the FMB World Tour rankings with 3,418.20 points, followed by Martin Soderstrom of Sweden with 2,904.45 and Thomas Genon of Belgium with 2,876.20. Semenuk is only racing in a handful of top tier events this year and is not ranked in the top 10.
He will only enter four or five major contests, while focusing more on filming with Red Bull and Freeride Entertainment. In an interview with Bike Magazine he also said he was unhappy with how the FMB is structured, with too many events. He'd like to see the tour based on results at a few key events, rather than handing out points to athletes at roughly 30 events around the world.
Sneak preview offered of Red Bull Joyride course
Crankworx Whistler doesn't take place until the second week of August and the biggest event of the freeride mountain bike festival — the Red Bull Joyride slopestyle — is near the end on August 17.
But that didn't stop Red Bull from giving fans a sneak preview of this year's slopestyle course, complete with a video featuring the pro riders that are helping to design it: a group that includes Brandon Semenuk, Cam McCaul, Greg Watts and Darren Berrecloth.
This year's course is trying to create a more sweeping series of "S" turns to allow riders to better control their speed from stunt to stunt. In the words of course designer Paddy Kaye, the goal is "a little better speed throughout the hill, we won't have to do any braking or pedaling, the whole thing should just flow a little nicer."
For Whistler's Brandon Semenuk, who won Crankworx Whistler and the overall Freeride Mountain Bike (FMB) world tour in 2011 and the world tour again in 2012, it's about progression.
"This track, we want it to be perfect," he said. "We want everything to be the best for the most next-level tricks."
As for how the course will look, the drawing shows a long wood ramp to a drop, a pair of gap jumps, an off-camber gab jump, two more gap jumps, a quarterpipe, another drop, two options for off-camber kickers, a step-up onto a platform with two different types of jumps, a wall ride feature, a gap, and then the final feature — a big step-down jump to the finish line.
The course is at www.pinkbike.com.