There are a handful of opportunities for riders to go three-for-three at Crankworx events this year.
But none are more prestigious than the opportunity Ontario rider Brett Rheeder has afforded himself.
The 22 year old out of Toronto has won both slopestyle events on tour so far in 2015, first in Rotorua, New Zealand in March and then in Les Deux Alpes, France last month. Should he jump up from his 2014 runner-up slot and score the win in Whistler at the Red Bull Joyride this Saturday, Aug. 15, Rheeder will win himself $50,000 — half for the tour win and half for taking all three competitions. Local rider Brandon Semenuk won his third Joyride last year, and rebounded with a second-place showing in France after opening the year with a 14th-place result in New Zealand.
In an interview with Red Bull in advance of last year's Joyride, Rheeder acknowledged feeling some apprehension on the course all year as he returned from serious spine and arm injuries suffered during the 2013 season.
Pique had the chance to catch up with Rheeder on-course just before the riders' meeting and his first loop of the course on Aug. 11 to chat about how he's feeling heading into the biggest race of the season.PIQUE: Thanks for taking the time here today. Obviously, you have the chance to do something quite historic here. How are you feeling a couple days out of the event?
BRETT RHEEDER: Pretty nervous. Very nervous. I'm trying to make myself not feel so pressured, I think, because there's a chance that winning this contest isn't going to happen, obviously. I'm content. I have a level head, and am going in with not too high of expectations.PIQUE: In terms of the nerves, is it comparable to the nerves you've ever felt before?
BR: It's pretty much at every single contest. With this one, the nerves right now are the same as every contest. The final day on Saturday, the nerves will probably go up a little bit with the amount of spectators that will be here.PIQUE: Looking the course over right now, how do you think this is going to compare to the other couple ones you've experienced this year?
BR: They spend a lot more time building this course and perfecting it than any of the others, so it's going to be good. It's actually going to be amazing. We have tons of practice, so none of us are rushing right now. We're just taking our time.PIQUE: Certainly, it's been quite the amazing year for you. What's been different for you so far this year?
BR: It's been pretty hectic. I'm enjoying the results, obviously, but winning every time comes with a lot of work and that work isn't necessarily always fun. I've been practicing lots on my own and haven't been having fun as much like riding downhill with my friends. (I've been) missing activities like that because of the pretty strict training.PIQUE: What's some of the extra work you've had to take on?
BR: The majority of it has been repetition, practicing the same trick over and over again, basically branding it into your muscles and brain so you know how to do it. Riding in the heat or the cold weather regardless. Sometimes you don't have the motivation to ride, but you're forcing yourself to get on the bike again.PIQUE: Is that something you've experienced in previous years at all?
BR: It's something that I've always had, just a little bit more this year.PIQUE: I saw the (Red Bull video) feature in advance of last year's Joyride talking about your injury and coming back from that and the fear you felt, almost. Is that something that's been sticking around with you?
BR: No, I've gotten completely rid of that. Well, I've tried as hard as I can to get rid of that fear. I'm fully healed from that injury. It felt really good last year to put down a solid run here and walk away with a good finish.PIQUE: Was that the moment where you felt good again mentally or was it a bit of a longer process?
BR: It was a longer process than that. The whole year was a bit of a struggle mentally, just dealing with the nerves right before I'm about to do a contest run. But after, everything feels really good.PIQUE: You have the opportunity to claim the Triple Crown here. With that being announced before the season, how did you react when you found out this opportunity would be available? Did you think you'd have a chance?
BR: I pretty much thought it was impossible. It seems impossible to win three Crankworx in a row. This isn't something that's easy. I forgot about it, honestly. When I won the first contest in New Zealand, I forgot, and then the organizers told me 'You're the only one who can win this Triple Crown' and I was like 'Wow, that's crazy.' It was a thought that stuck around for a little while, but I didn't really expect to win Les Deux Alpes in France as well. I went into it with an open mind and it ended up happening again. Now the pressure's on more than it ever has (been). Everyone's talking about it — interviews, photos, videos. It's quite the week.PIQUE: In advance of the year, people probably would have said Brandon Semenuk would be the odds-on favourite. What have you seen out of him this year?
BR: Brandon is the favourite, still. He has the following. He has his movies that he's done, more than I have. It's because of our age. He's the favourite. People are bummed when they find out I have won. It's a bit of a struggle trying to tell myself that it's OK, but I don't really care at the end of the day. He's been doing it for longer than I have, so I respect that.