Nicholi Rogatkin produced a sensational first run to open the MTB slopestyle season in style with victory at the 2017 Crankworx Rotorua event in New Zealand.
The American landed his signature twister move to finish a technically brilliant run that saw him edge out Italian Torquato Testa and Sweden’s Emil Johansson.
The original Kelly McGarry designed-course was used again featuring nine massive jumps and recognised by most of the elite slopestyle riders as the best of its kind.
The first run heated up with Frenchman Yannick Granieri scoring 80 off a tsunami backflip finish, Nico Scholze also sitting pretty thanks to a solid 76.
Defending champion Brandon Semenuk of Canada could only score 62.33 after losing his bike in the air off the last jump attempting a backflip double tailwhip.
Compatriot Anthony Messere followed with a clean run full of classy tricks for 87, France’s Tomas Lemoine edging him out for the lead courtesy of a backward inward table to barspin to finish and a 90.
Canada’s Logan Peat proceeded to score high in the eighties along with Swedish duo Johansson and Max Fredriksson off a backflip double tailwhip.
However it was Rogatkin who set the bar the highest with a phenomenal 95.66 featuring a triple tailwhip, frontflip and awesome twister to close it out.
He said, “You have no idea the motivation I had doing this for McGazza (Kelly McGarry). The run was coming together like a dream. Hearing that crowd coming to the bottom I had to stomp that last one and I did. I had to point to the sky and I am over the moon right now.”
BMX legend Ryan Nyquist pulled out a superb second-run 91.33 following his recent discipline transition to show that he still has the skills aged 38.
He enthused, “I want to be in the rest of the Diamond Series and hopefully that score will put me there. I was in BMX for so long that this is fresh and new – meeting all these new faces even though some of them are young enough to be my kids!”
German Scholze stepped up a gear in his second run with an 84.66 to send the crowd wild, Briton Sam Pilgrim unleashing smooth tailwhips to improve with 81.33.
It was Italy’s Testa, though, who came closest to eclipsing Rogatkin with a staggering second-run 93 including a backflip no-footed can-can tailwhip.
Exciting teenager Johansson just finished behind him with a 92 featuring a 360 double downside tailwhip and a backflip tailwhip to barspin with clean landing.
With Messere, Fredriksson and Lemoine either crashing out or coasting down after missed tricks, it was left to Rogatkin to close the show with a fun run of 80.66.
He added, “I had the first run in my mind over the course of the week. I didn’t know if I could do it. I knew all the guys were going to ride amazing.
“These fans gave me so much support. Hope McGazza is proud above. Winning the Crankworx Triple Crown is going to be hard, though.”
The first UCI Mountain Bike World Cup stop is fast approaching in Lourdes from April 29-30 with the world’s best downhill riders competing in France.
Replay Crankworx Rotorua on Red Bull TV HERE.
Watch our handy ABC of… Mountain Biking HERE.