Of the 27 athletes invited to compete in the sixth annual Monster Energy Slopestyle on Saturday — the premier event of the Crankworx mountain bike festival — three were born and raised in Whistler, while another spends a lot of his free time here riding and training.
Up to 15,000 people are expected to be on hand to watch the competition, where competitors pick their own lines through the Boneyard at the base of Whistler Mountain in a showdown of style, skill and guts. This year the course was designed by John Cowan, and includes step-ups, step-downs, drops, dirt jumps, wall rides, the satellite dish boxes for spin tricks, and the grand finale that looks like a giant anvil with a ramp at the end.
The judges are looking for line choice, speed, the variety of tricks, the degree of difficulty for those tricks, style, air time, fluidity and flow — the ability to link up tricks on the different Boneyard features while making it look easy.
All of the top freeriders in the world are taking part, including the winners from all the past years since Whistler held the first mountain bike slopestyle more than five years ago — Darren Berrecloth (2003), Paul Basagoitia (2004, 2005), Cameron Zink (2006) and Ben Boyko (2007). More than $30,000 is up for grabs in the competition.
Some of that award money could be staying in Whistler this year, as Whistler’s young freeriders are in the field — Brandon Semenuk, Alex Prochazka, and Kyle McDonald, all 17 years old. Also competing is 19-year-old Mitch Chubey, who lives in Langley but spends a lot of time riding and training in Whistler.
Other B.C. riders to watch for include Darren Berrcloth, who lives on Vancouver Island, and North Vancouver’s Ben Boyko.
Semenuk is coming into the competition on a roll after winning the Crankworx Colorado slopestyle just two weeks before Saturday’s event. Support from his sponsors, Trek, Nike, Camelbak, Sram, and Smith Optics, helped him to compete in the Quashquai challenge in Europe earlier in the summer. He had mixed results in Europe, finishing third in the first event and then missing the finals in the second.
Semenuk grew up racing cross-country, then made the switch to dirt jumping several years ago. He’s spent the past two winters in Aptos, California where he can train year round with other top riders. The move has paid off, as Semenuk has moved up the pro ranks.
When asked whether he was coming into Crankworx with a target on his back after winning Colorado, Semenuk said maybe, but that it wasn’t painted there by the other competitors.