There was little doubt who the Crankworx king, queen and prince would be this weekend as Crankworx wound down.
After winning the Canadian Open Downhill (DH), the Air DH on Wednesday and the Garbonzo DH last Sunday Steve Smith was crowned the king of the festival. Casey Brown was named the queen based on her wins in the Canadian Open Women's DH and the Garbanzo DH.
Whistler's Jack Iles, 15, was named the Crankworx prince for his string of victories in the Whistler Bike Park.
For the second Sunday in a row, Smith thrilled fans along the course and assembled at the finish line. As was the case last Sunday at the Garbonzo DH, Smith was the last competitor down the course. He beat Mick Hannah of Australia, who finished second, and Andrew Neethling of South Africa in third place.
The more than 100 professionals who raced ahead of Smith and the amateurs who raced earlier in the day chewed up the course before Smith laid down the final run of the day. Interviewed at the finish he described the course as a "loose" track.
"I was quite nervous after winning the two I didn't expect to win," Smith said. "It put on a lot of pressure."
Smith set the Crankworx bar high by being the first rider to win all three of the festival's major DH events. He earned $10,000 for winning the Canadian Open DH and that paycheque followed earnings of $2,500 from the Garbanzo DH and another $2,500 for taking top spot at the Air DH.
Casey Brown of Revelstoke took her second major Crankworx win by racing faster than Whistler's Claire Buchar for the second Sunday in a row. Squamish's Lauren Rosser was the third fastest competitor in the Canadian Open Women's DH.
Thomas Genon takes Red Bull Joyride
Coming into the post-competition press conference, French rider Thomas Genon was covered with dirt, his eyes red and irritated, his front tooth chipped. Not because of a crash, although there were plenty of those — his fellow competitors just got a little carried away at the podium celebration.
Martin Soderstrom, who placed second in the Saturday event, blasted Genon in the eyes with champagne while Genon struggled with his own cork. He turned away only to get blasted by American Cam McCaul who, while shaking his champagne bottle, chipped Genon's front tooth. Then Soderstrom threw some dust in his face for good measure.
It was a hazing of sorts for an incredibly talented up-and-coming rider, who had just won $25,000 and the top title in freeride mountain biking — on a hard tail no less, with over 10,000 fans lining the course.
Genon's winning run, which he landed in the semi-final, included the biggest front flip of the day and a backflip onto the cabin, capped off by a huge tailwhip to the finish. The only run that came close was Soderstrom's last, which ended with a 360 double tailwhip that came up just short. Cam McCaul made some of the biggest, laziest backflips of the day off the 60-foot kicker, finished off with a 360 off the cabin to take third.
Pretty much everybody else had a bad day, with seven out of eight athletes in the super final crashing or going out with mechanicals. Whistler's Brandon Semenuk, the reigning Red Bull Joyride champion and the winner of the last four major slopestyle events, crashed near the top of both of his runs and didn't even make the money round. It was that kind of a night.
Genon, who doesn't speak much English, provided some of the most entertaining moments of the press conference.
"I don't know what I'm going to do here," he said, taking his seat below the Red Bull Joyride banner. "I can't speak English."
Genon said he's been watching Crankworx since he took up dirt jumping at the age of 12. Although he's had solid results in Europe and at the Claymore Challenge, he wasn't expecting an invite to the Red Bull Joyride.
"I was just so happy just to be invited, it was an honour, and I'm so happy to be first."
Three Canadians finished just shy of the podium. Ontario's Brett Rheeder was fourth with an 80.6, Surrey's Anthony Messere was fifth with a 79.4 and an emotional Casey Groves of Kelowna — competing a day after the death of a cousin — was sixth with a 78.6.
Troy Bronsnan and Melissa Buhl are dual winners
Two racers, two tracks and just one winner. The Giant Dual Slalom competition ended with two winners; Troy Brosnan and Melissa Buhl.
Brosnan said after the event that the spectators played a role in his win.
"It feels amazing, I'm coming back trying to have fun and get in a little training before Worlds," said the winner from Australia. "It was a good night. The crowd was pretty big and that helped."
American racer Luca Shaw placed second and he was followed by Bas Van Steenbergen of Kelowna.
Melissa Buhl of the USA beat out North Shore racer Micayla Gatto and Steffi Marth of Germany in third.
"It's been a long week with a lot of events, so I feel really good about this win," said Buhl. "This is my first win at Crankworx and I couldn't be happier."
Lunn, van Steenbergen take Teva Best Trick
Two generations of B.C. riders walked away from the athlete-judged Teva Best Trick showdown on Thursday night with $4,000 cheques and the appreciation of a massive crowd.
The first hit was a straight air under the big screen. There were a lot of solid tricks and combinations — Sam Dueck's Double Tailwhip, Martin Soderstrom's 360 table and Yannick Granieri's flip whip stood out — but the one that got the biggest cheer from the crowd, and the most votes, was Jordie Lunn's very corked 720 spin.
"That's a trick that comes out different every time I train it, sometimes it's a 360 with a flip, sometimes I get it right and I land a corked 720," said 29-year-old Lunn. "It's a fun one to do, and I was definitely building up to it today."
Tom van Steenbergen, the winner of the second feature, is a young competitor at just 16 years of age.
The second feature was the porch trick off of the Kokanee Cabin at the base of the mountain. Van Steenbergen sewed up the votes with a front flip tuck no-hander, with his hands well out to the sides.
"It's a trick I first got in the Air Dome and then practiced it a lot, then a few weeks later I tried it out on a trick jump," he said. "It didn't go well at all. I pretty much ate it. But a couple of days after that I tried it out on a step jump and landed it the first time, and after that I just kept doing it."
Ropelato, Kintner three-peat on pump track
The second part of Thursday evening's double-header was a double three-peat at the Ultimate Pump Track Challenge presented by Rock Shox.
The event was moved from the top of The Boneyard this year to Whistler Olympic Plaza, resulting in a crowd of thousands out to enjoy some head-to-head racing under the lights.
The racers were seeded according to their qualifying runs, and then paired off on parallel pump courses. They would race twice, switching sides between runs, with the rider posting the lowest combined time advancing.
For the third year running, Mitch Ropelato of the U.S. took the men's event, edging out Australia's Troy Brosnan in the final. While Ropelato was solid in every run, he also had a bit of luck — Brosnan crashed in his run and bent his bars out of shape. Cody Johnson, the biggest surprise of the night, had a bad start in an earlier heat. Martin Soderstrom — who added colour with a tailwhip, behind the back clap/no-hander and a bar spin off the last small jump - had a crash in the middle section.
That's not to say that Ropelato wouldn't have won anyway. No gap was too big for him to come back from.
"The second corner is pretty key (to this course)," he said. "If you were behind you could rail it and come down the straightaway with enough speed to pull ahead of the other person. I really liked this course."
Ropelato said he tried to focus on his own race and not to pay too much attention to the other rider, but it was impossible not to feel the pressure. "You could see them coming up on you, so that pushed you a little harder," he said.
Third place went to Cody Johnson, with Soderstrom in fourth.
Jill Kintner of Washington State took the women's pump track title for the third year running, besting Micayla Gatto of the North Shore in a tight final. Just 0.22 seconds separated the two riders after two rounds.
Unbelievably, Kintner wasn't even sure she was going to race. Just six weeks ago she broke her radius bone, and had surgery to put in a plate. No cast was required, which Kintner said was the only reason she had enough strength in her hand for something like the Ultimate Pump Track Challenge.
"I wasn't really cleared to race on it. My doctor said I could ride my bike, but he told me I couldn't crash — and I didn't," she said.
Normally Kintner would enter other events as well, but decided to draw the line at the pump track rather than risk a more serious injury.
Smith on a roll with Air Downhill win
Nanaimo's Steve Smith took his second downhill competition in less than a week by winning the Air DH on Wednesday.
Smith finished almost four seconds ahead of American Brian Lopes, who won this event five years in a row before Andrew Neethling unseated him in 2011. Lopes was followed by Australian Mick Hannah, Neethling (from South Africa) and Mitch Ropelato of the U.S. The fastest local rider in the group was Ian Morrison.
"It's fast and dusty, but I prefer it that way," said Smith. "It's pretty exciting to win both the Garbanzo Downhill and Air Downhill as I haven't won either of these events before."
It's not that the other riders were slow, either. Technically Lopes would have set a new course record for A-Line with his second place time, while Smith himself shattered the previous record by over five seconds.
In the women's event, French rider Emmeline Ragot took the win, with a couple of fast Canadians giving chase. The North Shore's Micayla Gatto was second while reigning champion Claire Buchar placed third. Casey Brown of Revelstoke and Whistler's Sarah Leishman rounded out the top five respectively.
First place in the women's race was worth $1,500 while Smith took home $5,000.
Additional reporting by Andrew Mitchell