Red Bull Elevation was created, designed and executed with only one thing in mind the rider. If spectators and sponsors are into it, then so much the better.
According to event founder Jay Miron, Canadas top BMX athlete for over a decade, most of the pro dirt jump events out there are not keeping pace with the progression of the sport. He wanted an event with the bigger jumps the athletes were currently riding, held on a downhill grade to minimize pedaling and to create a sense of flow where the last hit is as big as the first.
He also wanted to see an event with a jam format, giving riders more opportunities to try out new tricks without the pressure of making the podium with just two runs.
Red Bull Elevation is now in its second year. The practice session is today, Thursday, June 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The qualifier will be held on Friday from noon to 6 p.m., narrowing the field down from 40 invited riders to 20 for the finals. The finals take place on Saturday, July 1 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the base of Whistler Mountain.
Miron has been told to expect twice as many spectators as last year partly because its the Canada Day/Independence Day long weekend, and partly because of the success of last years inaugural Red Bull Elevation.
"Its going to be nuts if twice as many people come, and based on what Im hearing I think its going to be absolutely nuts," he said. "Last year a lot of people didnt know what to expect or what would happen, but have since heard about it and seen the footage. We were also up against Slam City Jam last year, which attracts a similar crowd, but thats not happening this year."
Miron, who hails from Coquitlam, says there is also a lot more media interest this year from around the world based on the success of last years competition.
Although Mountain Square will be busy, one of the advantages of the Red Bull Elevation is that the action takes place high in the air over the jumps or on a downslope. Spectators will also be allowed to watch from the side of the course, which starts up the service road on Whistler Mountain, curves around and finishes at the bottom of the ski out in the village.
The course will look the same as last year, but according to Miron there have been a few changes.
"To the general public its not going to seem a lot different, but for the riders it will be a new game," said Miron. "Last year we made the biggest, scariest jumps we could but this years setup is better. This year we cut into the hill so the run-ins werent so steep, the angles are different. Even though the jumps are bigger theyre safer to ride, you can go higher and do bigger tricks. Basically we tried to take every little mistake and oversight from last year and fix it for this event so it would be perfect."
Last years highlight was James Foster landing the first triple tail whip, and some combination tricks that have never been put back to back before.
This year, partly driven by the existence of events like Red Bull Elevation, the riders have cranked it up another notch. Although its difficult to predict what the riders are going to be doing on any given day, Miron made a few predictions.
"I think were going to see double backflips, were going to see double trailwhip 360s. Triple tailwhips will be somewhat common now, believe it or not. Front flip variations are now getting popular, a few guys are doing front flip tail whips. Anthony Napolitan has a front flip no-hander.
"Its getting out of hand, the guys are going really big. All the tricks should be huge. Last year the jumps were really scary, but this year everythings built perfectly. Im completely satisfied we couldnt have done a better job."
The athlete list was by invitation only. Miron and his team considered opening the event to qualifiers but given the size of the jumps they decided to stick with proven professionals. Even so, Miron says his phone has been ringing off the hook.
"Ive gotten so many phone calls after last years event, I cant even tell you, from all these weird promoters and sponsors wanting to be involved in the next event to riders and team managers wanting to get in," he said. "I think they saw that it wasnt just another event."
BMX is growing in popularity. The introduction of skateparks has helped to grow the sport, as well as the interest in dirt jumping. Also, BMX is now an official Olympic sport for 2008.
Its not quite where it was in the 80s when everyone owned a BMX bike, but Miron says the sport is getting more popular all the time.
"Im hearing from shops that sales are way up, our (bike) sales are way up, weve had record sales this year," he said. "Its interesting, but one of the largest demographics were seeing are the 18 to 25 year old women. Theyre really comfortable with the bikes; theyre low maintenance, and theyre fun to pedal around.
"The skate parks are huge. Whenever they open a park in an area we see an increase in sales to the bike shops around it."
The list of athletes competing this weekend included Ryan Nyquist, whos defending his title from the first Red Bull Elevation, and X-Games title holder Corey Bohan. Other notables include Kye Forte, Cory Nastazio, Luke Parslow and Dusty Klatt.
The complete roster is Tim Fuzzy Hall, Justin Inman, Chris Doyle, James Foster, Ryan Guettler, Benny Korthaus, Romuald Noirot, Tony Cardona, T.J. Lavin, K.C. Badger, Steve McCann, Mike Aitken, Darin Read, Paul Kintner, Colin McKay, Gary Young, Michael "Hucker" Clark, Ryan Sher, Matt Beyers, Anthony Napolitan, Adam Baker, Heath Pinter, Rob Darden, Dave Dilleward, Brian Foster, Fernando Sabat, Kym Grosser, Lance Mosley, Cesar Flores, Brad Bonar, Allan Cooke, Sean Sexton, Alejandro Caro Ospina and Darren Berrecloth.
For more information on Red Bull Elevation visit www.redbullelevation.com.