After two years of anticipation, Brett Rheeder dethrones reigning Red Bull Joyride champ Brandon Semenuk.
The largest slopestyle mountain biking competiton in the world, Red Bull Joyride, closed out the final day of the weeklong Crankworx Whistler festival on Sunday at Whistler Blackcomb Mountain. Dubbed ‘Slopestyle Sunday’, 15 of the world’s best slopestyle athletes went head-to-head in a gravity-defying showdown in front of 30,000 spectators packed into the Whistler Plaza for the season defining contest and a main event of the Red Bull Signature Series. Watch the winning run by Canadian Brett Rheeder here.
If there was one athlete with a bullseye on his back at this year’s Red Bull Joyride, it was Brandon Semenuk. Comparably the Usain Bolt of slopestyle mountain biking, Semenuk has held court over the Whistler event for the past three years consecutively, with a total of four first place finishes to his name as the most winning athlete in the history of the contest. But this year, it was Canada’s Brett Rheeder (Mount Albert, ON) who put an end to ‘The King’s’ reign after pursuing him for nearly two years.
“It’s such a surreal feeling. I’ve been struggling since 2012 and after facing so much pressure last year and having two crashes, this has been a long time coming.” explains Rheeder. “I was still very nervous going into today. The conditions weren’t ideal but as soon as I dropped in, everything just goes away and it’s just you and the bike.”
The first place win for Rheeder could not be more well deserved, following a third place win in 2014 and an upsetting result in 2015. Last year, Rheeder found himself in a remarkable position going into the Red Bull Joyride event, with a chance to win the first ever Crankworx Triple Crown of Slopestyle. Wins at the first two events of the year in Rotorua, New Zealand and France meant he had two of the three wins necessary to earn the title, with Red Bull Joyride being the final. But with the immense pressure he faced, he succumbed to nerves and was unable to cobble together a winning run at the final event, despite being an odds-on favorite for the win.
On Sunday, following two uncharacteristically low scoring runs by Brandon Semenuk, Rheeder was able to capitalize on the opportunity, catapulting himself to first place with a leading score of 93 in his opening run. Nearly flawless from top to bottom, he unleashed an arsenal of big combination tricks including a backflip barspin to opposite tail whip in the early stages of his run, his signature cork 720 and a highly technical finish with a front flip onto the final 30ft tall feature, followed by a backflip off into the finish area below.
Hot on the heels of Rheeder were Thomas Genon (BEL) who placed second with a score of 91.20, and Max Fredriksson who placed third in his Red Bull Joyride debut, scoring 89.80. Just shy of the podium was fellow Swede, Emil Johansson who made a remarkable impression in what was also his first Red Bull Joyride appearance at only 17 years of age. Under the mentorship ofMartin Soderstrom, both will be contenders to watch in the years to come.