After two years of anticipation, Brett Rheeder dethrones reigning Red Bull Joyride champ Brandon Semenuk.
The largest slopestyle mountain biking competiton in the world, Red Bull Joyride, closed out the final day of the weeklong Crankworx Whistler festival on Sunday at Whistler Blackcomb Mountain. Dubbed ‘Slopestyle Sunday’, 15 of the world’s best slopestyle athletes went head-to-head in a gravity-defying showdown in front of 30,000 spectators packed into the Whistler Plaza for the season defining contest and a main event of the Red Bull Signature Series. Watch the winning run by Canadian Brett Rheeder here.
If there was one athlete with a bullseye on his back at this year’s Red Bull Joyride, it was Brandon Semenuk. Comparably the Usain Bolt of slopestyle mountain biking, Semenuk has held court over the Whistler event for the past three years consecutively, with a total of four first place finishes to his name as the most winning athlete in the history of the contest. But this year, it was Canada’s Brett Rheeder (Mount Albert, ON) who put an end to ‘The King’s’ reign after pursuing him for nearly two years.
“It’s such a surreal feeling. I’ve been struggling since 2012 and after facing so much pressure last year and having two crashes, this has been a long time coming.” explains Rheeder. “I was still very nervous going into today. The conditions weren’t ideal but as soon as I dropped in, everything just goes away and it’s just you and the bike.”
The first place win for Rheeder could not be more well deserved, following a third place win in 2014 and an upsetting result in 2015. Last year, Rheeder found himself in a remarkable position going into the Red Bull Joyride event, with a chance to win the first ever Crankworx Triple Crown of Slopestyle. Wins at the first two events of the year in Rotorua, New Zealand and France meant he had two of the three wins necessary to earn the title, with Red Bull Joyride being the final. But with the immense pressure he faced, he succumbed to nerves and was unable to cobble together a winning run at the final event, despite being an odds-on favorite for the win.
On Sunday, following two uncharacteristically low scoring runs by Brandon Semenuk, Rheeder was able to capitalize on the opportunity, catapulting himself to first place with a leading score of 93 in his opening run. Nearly flawless from top to bottom, he unleashed an arsenal of big combination tricks including a backflip barspin to opposite tail whip in the early stages of his run, his signature cork 720 and a highly technical finish with a front flip onto the final 30ft tall feature, followed by a backflip off into the finish area below.
Hot on the heels of Rheeder were Thomas Genon (BEL) who placed second with a score of 91.20, and Max Fredriksson who placed third in his Red Bull Joyride debut, scoring 89.80. Just shy of the podium was fellow Swede, Emil Johansson who made a remarkable impression in what was also his first Red Bull Joyride appearance at only 17 years of age. Under the mentorship of Martin Soderstrom, both will be contenders to watch in the years to come.
A YEAR OF PROGRESS
What a difference a year can make. In one of the most exciting slopestyle events in recent memory, this year’s contest was a testament to the rapid progression of slopestyle mountain biking, with a bevy of first-ever tricks and new faces emerging on the scene. Brandon Semenuk’s 180 calf-cab off the largest flat drop, meaning he essentially rode off the feature backwards, was a first-ever in the contest, and despite missing the podium, made a clear statement on the direction in which the sport is heading. The contest also included legendary BMX rider Ryan Nyquist who qualified for the event, one of a number of athletes from other bike disciplines who are making the transition to slopestyle mountain biking, further validating the sport’s growing appeal. Canadian BMX icon Drew Bezanson, as documented in this season’s The Learning Curve, also debuted in his first slopestyle mountain biking season as he battled it out on the FMB World Tour this summer, unfortunatelly falling just short of earning a spot at Red Bull Joyride.
RED BULL JOYRIDE
Built by riders for riders, this year’s Red Bull Joyride course was the largest yet, ringing in at 650m in length with an all new start section which put competitors immediately into the action with a drop right out of the gate, along with an all new final feature that weighed in at 30ft high with a flatdrop into the finish area.
Now in its sixtth year, Red Bull Joyride is the most coveted slopestyle mountain biking event and season-defining contest of the FMB World Tour. Slopestyle mountain biking, born largely on Vancouver’s North Shore, is a blend of classic downhill mountain biking, freeride and dirt jumping with athletes being scored on a blend of tricks, technicality and style.
Red Bull Joyride, a headline event of the Red Bull Signature Series, will air on October 22, 2016 from 3:00pm – 4:30pm ET on NBC. Sal Masekela, the definitive voice in action sports, hosts the Red Bull Signature Series that is now in its fifth year on NBC. Red Bull Joyride is brought to a national NBC audience in partnership with Pennzoil Synthetics and BGGoodrich.