With the tagline "The Evolution of Slopestyle," expectations are sky-high for the July 23 Red Bull Joyride - the mountain bike slopestyle event that was invented in Whistler and has anchored the annual Crankworx freeride festival since 2004.
Red Bull has made a name for itself by creating events that push the boundaries of sports and showcase talent at its best, and if anybody can top last year's slopestyle - which drew 20,000 spectators to the village during Crankworx, plus tens of thousands of other watching online - it's Red Bull.
The course itself is taking shape at the base of Whistler Mountain, with a lot of input from the athletes themselves. A video of a brainstorming session with the top riders suggests that Red Bull isn't looking to create a slopestyle event so much as a freeride mountain bike competition.
"I like riding everything," said Whistler's Brandon Semenuk, recognized as one the top freeriders in the world these days, "so why not put everything on the course?"
The course has common features that everyone will ride, but it will split off onto other features that showcase all the elements of freeriding - big mountain lines, dirt jumping lines, wooden slopestyle features like curved ramps and quarterpipes, North Shore-style features like bridge drops - with an emphasis on flow from top to bottom. The video is available at www.redbull.ca/joyride.
This year 10 athletes are prequalified to compete at Joyride, based on their results in last year's competition and their placing on the Freeride Mountain Bike Association World Tour.
The list includes four B.C. riders: Semenuk, Vancouver Islander Darren Berrecloth, newcomer Sam Dueck and Kelowna's Casey Groves - a young rider who got his start in an amateur slopestyle event in Whistler three years ago and then turned heads with a third-place finish at Crankworx in 2010.
Semenuk, who was injured at Crankworx last year after under-rotating a backflip, currently leads the 2011 rankings with 2,588 points. He has wins at 26TRIX and the Claymore Challenge. He's just eight points ahead of British rider Sam Pilgrim, who is also prequalified for Whistler.
Other riders on the list include 2010 champion Cam Zink of Nevada, California's Mike Montgomery, New Zealand's Kelly McGarry, French rider Yannick Granieri and Sweden's Martin Soderstrom.
Another 10 athletes have been prequalified for the Teva Best Trick Showdown on Thursday, July 21. The list includes Amir Kabbani (Germany), Andreu Lacondeguy (Spain), Antoine Bizet (France), Greg Watts (California), Jack Fogelquist (California), Kyle Strait (California), Lance McDermott (U.K.), Medhi Gani (France), Mitch Chubey (B.C.) and Paul Basagoitia (Nevada). The wildcard athletes - all pros that Whistler fans should recognize by now - are Cam McCaul, Graham Aggasiz, Kurt Sorge, Tyler McCaul and Geoff Gulevich.
The website is www.redbull.ca/joyride. You can also check out www.crankworx.com for updates.
Red Bull Joyride qualifying is from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on July 21, followed by the Teva Best Trick Showdown from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Red Bull Joyride is from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 23.