By Andrew Mitchell
It should be a typical Canada Day weekend in Whistler. Visitors will pack the hotels and patios, locals will line the Village Stroll for the annual Canada Day parade, and the world’s top BMX riders will attempt to one-up one another in the world’s first gravity-assisted dirt jump contest.
Because of the tilted layout and size of the jumps, competitors have made several successful first jump attempts, including the first triple tail whip, and the first no-hander front flip.
The ability to spin, flip, and combine tricks is mandatory for riders to even be asked to this event.
Red Bull has guaranteed the participation of all the top riders in the world with a $10,000 cheque for first place, and a new $5,000 prize purse for “The Big Trick”. That award will be decided after a half-hour jam session following the regular contest, and will be open to all competitors.
“This is the biggest dirt jumping BMX event in the world by a lot,” said Red Bull event director Kenny MacIntyre. “It means a lot to the BMX community, it means a lot to Whistler, and it means a lot to us. It’s the best showcase for the progression of the sport you’ll see anywhere.”
The venue will be located in the same general area as past contests, but with a few changes this year based on rider feedback. The set-up can be seen from the village, with the top half on the Whistler Mountain access road and the lower half on the ski out to Excalibur Gondola.
“We’ve changed the top half of the course significantly, and the bottom section of the course will have a couple of different line choices, and the size of the bottom jump has been changed to make it a little longer and create some new possibilities for the athletes,” said MacIntyre.
“The top half will have a few more switchbacks to slow the riders down a little bit. On a 20-inch bike it’s hard to slow yourself down, so we have the course coming back up the hill twice to give riders more control and do some bigger tricks. Last year they were holding on for dear life.
“This way it’s a little more like traditional BMX, with banks and berms, and at turn two we’ll separate the group into the three different lines to give the riders more options. All the lines are transferable… so riders can mix up the sets any way they choose.”
As well as adding berms, bigger jumps and bigger sets, the course designers will also put a massive hip jump on the corner that promises to be entertaining for spectators.
Jay Miron, Canada’s top BMX rider for about two decades, came up with the concept for the competition after competing internationally for several years on flat courses. He felt that the flat courses limited riders in the range of tricks they could fit into a set of jumps, and that the sets were too short because of the amount of pedaling required between features.
To remedy the situation Miron approached Red Bull with an idea for a contest that would put riders on a slant to minimize pedaling, something a lot of riders were already doing in training.
Miron is once again overseeing the design of the course, which is being built by the same crew that designs courses for international competitions like the X-Games. All three are best known by their nicknames — Gilly, King Halsey, and Elf. Work began more than three weeks ago, and refinements will be made up to first training day.
Ryan Nyquist, the 2005 winner, and reigning 2006 champion Corey Bohan are both on the rider list for this year, as well as past medalists Luke Parslow, Anthony Napolitan and B.C.’s own Darren Berrecloth, who also competes in mountain bike slopestyle events. Once again Berrecloth is the only Canadian in the competition.
In total, 36 pro riders have been invited to Red Bull Elevation this year, representing eight countries.
Adam Baker (USA), Alejandro Caro Ospina (Columbia), Alex Dropsy (France), Allan Cooke (Australia), Anthony Napolitan (USA), Brian Foster (USA), Cameron White (Australia), Chris Doyle (USA), Colin McKay (Australia), Corey Bohan (Australia), Cory Nastazio (USA), Dane Seals (Australia), Darin Read (USA), Darren Berrecloth (Canada), Dave Dillewaard (Australia), Fernando Sabat (Argentina), Gary Young (USA), Heath Pinter (USA), James Foster (USA), Kye Forte (UK), Kym Grosser (Australia), Luke Parslow (Australia), Marcus Hampl (Germany), Matt Beyers (Australia), Michael Clark (USA), Paul Kinter (USA), Romauld Noirot (France), Ryan Guettler (Australia), Ryan Jordan (USA), Ryan Nyquist (USA), Stephen Murray (USA), Steve McCann (Australia), T.J. Ellis (Australia), and T.J. Lavin (USA).
The action gets underway on Friday, June 29 with training, followed by the qualifier at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The finals, featuring the top-20 riders, run from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, followed by the trick contest until 6 p.m. A quick awards ceremony will be held, then Canada’s own Metric, the platinum-selling band from Toronto, will take to stage for a free outdoor concert.
According to MacIntyre, the addition of music was the next logical step.
“Whistler is just such a great place to come on a long-weekend, and Elevation is a show, and a great show, for people in the village to come out and watch,” he said. “Traditionally we’ve had a small party with the athletes after the contest, but we wanted to do something in the village to entertain the spectators as much as we can and open the party up a little bit.”
Red Bull Elevation is free for spectators, and there are great places to view the action from on all sides of the course.