Ropelato, Kintner top dual slalom at Crankworx Whistler 

Canadian Verbeeck claims overall title

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAN FALLOON - Winner Mitch Ropelato (left) defeats Austin "Bubba" Warren in the 100% Dual Slalom final at Blackcomb Base II on Aug. 14.
  • Photo by Dan Falloon
  • Winner Mitch Ropelato (left) defeats Austin "Bubba" Warren in the 100% Dual Slalom final at Blackcomb Base II on Aug. 14.

Mitch Ropelato rode perfectly for much of the 100% Dual Slalom at Blackcomb Base II on Aug. 14.

And he was flowing so well that even when he wasn't flawless, it was still good enough to win.

In the second half of his semifinal against Czechia's Tomas Slavik, Ropelato slipped a pedal and bobbled early in the race, but recovered and crossed the line first.

In his next heat, the first round of the final against fellow American and good friend Austin "Bubba" Warren, Ropelato had a slightly more serious slip, though Warren did as well moments afterward.

"[The slip against Slavik] didn't seem that bad. The one against Bubba was terrible. I thought I was going down for sure. That was sketchy," he said. "You just forget about it and keep going.

"I learned that in enduro racing. You make so many mistakes that you get it out of the brain real quick."

The win catapulted Ropelato from fourth in the overall World Tour standings into first place as the three riders ahead of him were all eliminated early on.

He's also shot up to lead the King of Crankworx standings, entering the week in seventh but rocketing up to lead France's Adrien Loron by 79 points by virtue of also winning the Garbanzo DH and placing second in the Air DH.

"I'm really comfortable here. I love coming to Whistler. I ride good here," Ropelato said.

Warren, who was the runner-up for the second consecutive year after Kyle Strait bested him in the final in 2018, said Ropelato was a worthy adversary for gold.

"What a final," he said. "We've been together for so long, just riding, and it's always a pleasure to go up against one of my best buds racing.

"We came into one of the first corners up there and I heard him push. It didn't scare me at all. And I just came into the next corner and just pushed the front end through some rocks."

With a 0.2-second difference at the midpoint, Warren knew it was going to be close and victory was within reach, but Ropelato emerged. Slavik bested American Matthew Sterling in the small final to take third.

On the women's side, American Jill Kintner picked up her second victory in as many days after claiming the Air DH crown on Tuesday. The reigning Queen of Crankworx reclaimed the crown after losing it to Australia's Danielle Beecroft in 2018. Kintner had won this race every year from 2013 to 2017.

Battling sickness throughout the week, she thought about skipping the race, but was glad she decided to come out, besting fellow American Clare Hamilton in the final.

"I definitely had to step it up there in the finals. It was loose and hard to push. It's not the easiest course we've ever had, and it's nice to have a challenge," Kintner said. "I prefer this to the light, easy ones that are over in 13 seconds."

Kintner noted Hamilton could push a little harder as she was using her trail bike, but Kintner was flying down the course en route to defeating the racer with the top qualifying time.

"I stepped it up. I just do what I have to do," she said.

However, with Kintner missing the first two Crankworx festivals in Rotorua and Innsbruck, the door was wide open for Canadian Vaea Verbeeck, who won the dual slalom at both and claimed the overall crown with a third-place finish, topping France's Morgane Charre in the small final.

"I had no expectations going in even though it was looking promising," Verbeeck said. "I did great and I'm super happy."

Verbeeck also extended her lead in the Queen of Crankworx standings to 115 points over Anneke Beerten of the Netherlands, the 2015 titleholder.

The dual slalom course moved to Base II after being located in the Boneyard for several years beforehand. The course was a different but welcome new challenge, riders said.

"It was a little sandier and a little more gritty ... Growing up riding moto, too, it was nice. You could just dive into these ruts and just go for it," Warren said.

"Usually, coming into Whistler, it's pretty long and very built up and pretty technical," Verbeeck said. "This one was kind of half-and-half, built and grass corners."

"The course was so sick. They did such an amazing job. It was a little short, but they need to keep doing slalom like this. It was just insane," Ropelato said.

Thursday's action includes the Official Whip-Off World Championships at Crabapple Hits at 3:30 p.m. and the RockShox Ultimate Pump Track Challenge in the Boneyard at 8 p.m.

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