Thomas Genon not only won the Clif Bar dual speed and style (DS&S) event in Whistler Village on Saturday night, he played giant killer to do it.
The Belgian eliminated DS&S overall leader Adrien Loron in the first round before knocking out No. 2 Tomas Slavik the next. Ultimately, Genon took the title over Czech rider Jakub Vencl. Canadian Tom Van Steenbergen topped his brother Bas to secure the bronze.
"I did not expect that at all," said Genon, who qualified 19th. "My seeding runs were not that great so I thought maybe the tricks will do it. But I did my best and I took every race.
"The first race for me was the hardest, against Adrien Loron, a very good friend of mine. I thought 'If I beat him, this is crazy.'"
Once Genon got past Loron, it wasn't going to be an easy road by any stretch, but it was a lot less daunting without the juggernaut in the way.
"I knew Slavik had less tricks than Adrien, but I was as fast as him, so I thought 'I can do it,'" Genon said. "There was no strategy. I was going as fast as I could, doing my tricks and it worked."
Vencl, meanwhile, was just as shocked as Genon to just make it to the final.
"To be honest, it's super unexpected. I felt pretty slow in the training and I was just hoping to get in the finals," said Vencl, the 21st-best qualifier. "Somehow, it worked."
Genon said the feeling among competitors entering the event was that the racers would hold an advantage, reducing the number of tricks on offer. But as the event wore on, the advancing riders struck a balance and stayed true to the nature of the challenge.
"At the beginning of the day, it looks like we couldn't do anything with tricks because the seeding run showed that the top six was only racers with no tricks," he said. "I just thought I'd do my best and see how it is. For some reason, tricks were counting at the end because I could race against racers that weren't doing so many tricks, so I could take advantage of that."
Van Steenbergen made a strong return to the event after two years away because of injury two years ago and a focus on Red Bull Joyride last year. The result was an improvement on his fourth-place in 2013.
"It worked out great so I'm pumped," he said. "I just did what I could, did it consistently and it worked for me."
Despite Loron being unable to earn any points to further his case in Whistler, he relied on the strength of podium finishes in the two previous DS&S events in Rotorua, New Zealand and Les Gets, France to nick Slavik for the overall title.
"It's pretty nice because I went out of the race pretty soon and I was feeling bad about it," he said. "It was pretty cool, especially because my friend won it (the race).
"I just got (matched up against) the fastest guy on the course today."
Crankworx action continues Saturday with the SRAM Canadian Open Enduro beginning at 7:30 a.m. The race is the sixth stop of eight on the Enduro World Series tour.
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