Whistler's own Brandon Semenuk proved once again why he's one of the best freeride mountain bikers in the world on Saturday night with over 10,000 fans crowding the slopestyle course for Red Bull Joyride.
After casing the very last jump on his first of two runs -- something Semenuk did in 2011 before he won here the first time and in 2010 when he placed second -- he laid down the strongest second run of the night.
The hardest part for Semenuk after crashing on a backflip-tailwhip "flipwhip" combo on the last jump was waiting for his second run.
"I wanted to get right back up there," he said. "It kind of sucked that had a half time, because I was ready to go up and do it. My blood was going, I was ready to do it and I wasn't afraid anymore."
Despite the crash, Semenuk still placed seventh in his first run. His second run featured back-to-back double tailwhip variations, one on each side, a backflip off the cabin and a backflip tailwhip on the bottom air. Other riders arguably had runs with a higher degree of difficulty, but no other rider threw a trick off of every single feature, had as complete of a run or made it to the bottom without crashing.
After Semenuk scored a 96.4 on his second run that left six riders in the field to challenge for the title. All did their best, but one by one they made mistakes in runs that had the potential to one-up Semenuk.
Swedish rider Martin Soderstrom, who had the lead after the first run and has never finished higher than second at Crankworx Whistler, landed a triple tailwhip on his run but then had a huge crash on the last air, injuring a leg.
Although riders usually aren't all that aware of the crowd, Semenuk said he could hear the crowd's support all the way down the run. When asked if he felt any pressure, he nodded. "All my friends and family are here, I didn't want to disappoint."
Semenuk, for his part, didn't celebrate his win -- worth $25,000 -- until Soderstrom was up and being helped to a waiting ambulance. Soderstrom finished second in the event with an 89.8, while British rider Sam Pilgrim, a rider who has crashed or broken his bike every single year he's competed at Crankworx, finished third with an 87.0. Anton Thelander, the youngest competitor, placed fourth and won the new "Young Gun" award.
Pilgrim took over the lead in the Freeride Mountain Bike (FMB) World Tour with his podium. Semenuk, who placed second at X Games and first at Crankworx Les 2 Alpes, opted against competing on the tour this year. When asked if he regrets not being on the tour given his results, Semenuk said no. His goal this year was to focus more on filming and a few key events.
"I've been working on season two of Life Behind Bars with new episodes every second week, and since March I've been working on a feature film with Freeride Entertainment that's about halfway done. I spent most of my summer doing that and I'm going to get back to that once this is wrapped up.
We wanted to show the most progressive riding, with the best features,jumps and trails, and make it happen. It's a core film, there's not a lot of talking just some good riding and some really awesome courses."
Only three riders have won two slopestyle events in Whistler, going back to the first one in 2002 -- Paul Basagoitia, Cam Zink and, since Red Bull Joyride 2013, Brandon Semenuk.
More to follow.
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