After coming through Saturday’s qualifier unscathed, the field in the Boneyard Air Affair on Sunday attacked the slopestyle course with everything allowed, throwing tailwhips, kossacks, bar spins, 360s and supermen at will, while adding a little something extra with each run.
For 16-year-old Casey Groves of Kelowna, it was all about the last combination of tricks. He started with a superman off the drop to a tabletop on the satellite boxes, and added a 360 to the bottom satellite box on his next run to win the Junior age category. He was promoted to the eight-rider superfinal, where the top rider had a shot at winning a spot in the Kokanee Crankworx Slopestyle event — the first and arguably biggest event in freeride mountain biking.
Groves stepped it up a notch, watching the riders push it a little more every run, before pulling out a pair of back-to-back 360 spins on the drop and satellite dish. He over-rotated the first spin slightly, but somehow managed to get back under control in the 20-foot transition to land his second spin perfectly. It was the best combination of the day, and judges awarded him a spot in Crankworx.
Groves wasn’t planning on spending his summer learning new tricks, but is already planning his next trip back to Whistler to practice.
“I was just building up through it, getting a little bigger every run,” he said. “It was my first time doing a competition, I was on a new bike, and I was just hoping for the best. The course was amazing this year.
“I’ve got a lot of big things to work on, that’s for sure. I was just hoping to do okay today, I didn’t really think I’d be in Crankworx. I’m going to work on bar spins to tailwhips, backflip tailwhips. I already have backflips, and that’s pretty much it.”
Groves isn’t sure where he’s going to train — the jump park he set up with friends recently got plowed under. He will start making trips to The Ranch in Kamloops to get more dirt jumping in, and head to a few bike parks to get used to the wood features — like the one at the bottom of the Boneyard that wasn’t open for the Air Affair.
“It’s so dry where I am that we don’t have a lot of wood features, but once I get used to them I get them,” he said. “I have so much work to do.”
In the final, Groves’ best score in two runs was 27.8. He was followed closely by Kelly McGarry with a 26.4, and Graham Aggasiz in 26.0.
In the age categories, Brennan Walstrom won the Grom group (age 13 to 15) with a 15.3, followed by Colin Westeindre with a 14.3, and Jess Findlay with a 14.1.
In the Junior category, Groves was first with a 27.4, followed by Logan Peat with a 25.8 and Ben Glassen with a 22.9.
Whistler’s Ross McMaster won the open male category with a 27.8, followed by Mitch Chubey with a 25.8 and Jordie Lunn with a 24.4.
McMaster was also a candidate to win a spot in Crankworx, but crashed hard on his second run over the gap jump.
“I’ll be sore for a few days, I’ll probably take a few days off riding, but it was worth it,” he said. “The course was pretty fun this year, a little dry and dusty and windy, but we could all deal with it. I was just super-psyched and super-happy to be out riding.”
The crash happened after he attempted a huge 360 over the gap, cleared the transition and over-rotated. His back wheel bent in half on impact and McMaster went down hard.
“That’s my thing, I really like doing 360s,” he said. “I was trying them on the big gap and getting them about half the time, so I went really big in my last run and overshot the landing. I don’t regret anything — I had a fun day and saw some really good riding.”
Only one female competed, Stephanie Nychka. Instead of taking it easy, Nychka followed the toughest line through the course, and landed everything smoothly.
More than 40 riders made it through the qualifier on Saturday into Sunday’s slopestyle competition. Organizers are already planning next year’s event with a few rule changes — including mandatory full-face helmets.