The second annual Dual Speed and Style event at Crankworx Whistler is a difficult one to wrap your head around. Two riders go head to head on massive timed dual slalom courses with some bigger features, including two judged jumps. The rider with the best jump over that particular feature gets a time bonus over the other rider.
That's where the strategy comes in for the riders. You need to be fast -- the final measure is time, even with the deductions -- but you also need to win at least one, if not both, of the jumps. However, tougher and more technical jumps can also take longer and a less than perfect landing can cost you the race.
Sweden's Martin Soderstrom, probably the best all around rider in the world today, won the dual speed and slalom event at Crankworx Les 2 Alpes in France earlier this season, and was the guy to beat once again after posting the fastest time in the qualifier.
In the first round Soderstrom defeated Mikey Haderer of the U.S., followed by wins over Yannick Granieri of France and Kyle Strait of the U.S. in the quarter and semi-finals. That set up a final dual against American Cam Zink, who advanced to the finals with wins over Americans Tyler McCaul and Paul Basagoitia, and Canadian Tom Van Steenbergen.
The two riders were neck-and-neck on their first trip down the course, but on the second run Soderstrom got the jump on Zink after opening up a gap between the first and second jumps. Zink landed a huge front flip off the second jump to bridge some of the gap but Soderstrom was too far ahead for it to matter.
"This is a pretty good start!" said Soderstrom after the race. He's competing in at least five events during Crankworx Whistler -- the Dual Speed and Style, the Teva Best Trick Showdown, the Ultimate Pump Track Challenge presented by Rockshox, the Official Whip-Off World Championships and the signature Red Bull Joyride slopestyle. He's also considering the Giant Dual Slalom event on Friday, but may choose to rest for the slopestyle the next day.
For Soderstrom, the variety of events is what keeps the sport fresh and fun.
"It takes quite a lot (to compete in so many disciplines)," he said. "Most of it is in your head, to be motivated to come back from injuries and bad results, to keep training all year round. For me, it's all about mixing up riding. Because I ride mountain bikes I can ride so many things -- I can take it into the woods and ride trails, I can take it into the skatepark or dirt jump park or BMX track. You can do so much on the same bike."
He's not kidding. Soderstrom brought exactly two bikes to Crankworx Whistler: one competition bike for everything and another downhill bike he brought to have fun riding the Whistler Mountain Bike Park in between events.
Soderstrom earned $3,000 for his win, while Zink came away with $2,000 and Kyle Strait $1,500.
For Zink, the dual speed and style format is a different kind of challenge.
"It's tough because you have to be fast and you have to do the biggest tricks, and there's also a lot of strategy," he said. "You can't see it, but we're all thinking really hard about every run and watching the other riders really closely. You're asking yourself 'what's he going to do? Is it worth trying to do something bigger if it takes more time to do it?'"
For Zink, who's had his share of injuries over the years and has been battling a separated shoulder injury from earlier in the season, it was good to feel close to 100 per cent again. "All season it's been hurting," he said. "I could still ride, but tonight was the first time I've race this year where everything was feeling great."
Today's event is the SRAM Canadian Open Enduro presented by Specialized, which features a five-stage course around Whistler Valley. The final stage, the Top of the World trail followed by a descent through the Whistler Mountain Bike Park to Skier's Plaza, gets underway at 3:15 p.m. for the amateurs, followed by the open/pro categories at 4:55 p.m.