For professional riders, competing at Crankworx
Whistler's Red Bull Joyride
event has to be near the top of any bucket-list. For mere mortals, spectating is as close as we'll get to experiencing what these riders go though, although this year, during Crankworx's 10th anniversary, we managed to go one better, by being part of the Pinkbike Productions
team, there to document the event.
Held on the penultimate day of Crankworx, Whistler was buzzing with anticipation after nearly 10 days of events, with Joyride being one of the most hotly anticipated, and also one of only three 'diamond' events on the Freeride Mountain Bike World Tour
, so the riders weren't just focused, they were primed for some of the biggest moves of their lives!
The geebeebee team had been on-hand throughout Crankworx, filming the riders during practice and the various other slopestyle-related events, such as the new Dual Speed & Style and Teva Best Trick. We were also heavily involved in numerous other events, including the SRAM Canadian Enduro, Whip-Off World Champs and Air DH, but Joyride was going to be pretty special, especially as we were one of the few crews to be allowed on the course itself!
After a couple of days of adverse weather, the clouds had started to lift and competition began, with wildcard rider Brayden Barrett-Hey
being the first rider to drop-in. Sadly, Brayden suffered a horrific crash off the first obstacle after effortlessly riding it during practice, and the course and spectators on the hill and around the world (courtesy of the Red Bull TV live feed) were on tenterhooks whilst Brayden was attended to by the well-trained course medics. Thankfully, Brayden wasn't seriously hurt, but will be off the bike for a while after suffering a serious concussion.
With the course reopened, and after a few more riders went down, though thankfully no one too hard, we trained our camera on some of the course's biggest features, shooting mostly in super slo-mo mode to capture the sheer skill that goes in to the tricks performed by the riders. Our good friend and crowd favourite, Kelly McGarry
, sadly suffered a shaky first run, but went on to stun the crowd by somehow executing front-flips, back flips and 360's, despite his 6" 4' frame, making his DiamondBack Dreamliner SS
bike look like an XS rig! Joyride 2012 winner Thomas Genon
also faired less-well during his first run, and seemed to aim for our camera whilst dismounting half-way through a berm, although he was soon up and raring to go once again. With all the spills, it was also really great to see how tight-knit the riders were, with Yannick Granieri
and Cam McCaul
frequently being on site before the dust had even settled when anyone came off.
With the event now well underway, it soon became apparent that the crowd was in for a vintage year and we were capturing some astonishing footage, with the three familiar faces of Brandon Semenuk
, Martin Söderström
and Sam Pilgrim
battling it out for the top spots on the day. Sam put in a incredible run that saw him top the leaderboard, only to be pipped by Martin with a jaw-dropping run. Fortunately for Sam and Martin, Brandon had an average (for him) first run, which saw Martin leading the first round, though it was clear that Brandon wanted another Joyride title, and might just have had something else in the bag for run number 2. With the three leaders and the rest of the field back up at the top, riders dropped-in one by one, for the most part improving on their first runs, with Anton Thelander
and Thomas Genon showing flashes of brilliance. However the top three - being the last three to drop in - had other ideas. Sam's second run was great but low-scoring, failing to take him past Martin's score, placing him in third. Brandon then brought the big guns out, with multiple trick variations off every feature - arguably not of the greatest difficulty - but he landed each trick with such certainty that the judges awarded him the day's highest score, firmly throwing down the gauntlet to Martin. With his typical Swedish flair, Martin dropped-in and within a few features we all knew it was going to be a close thing, with trick after trick landed and the difficulty level seeming to rise exponentially! So it all came down to this; the last step-down. Everyone viewing knew something special was about to happen and as Martin left the lip, he didn't disappoint, throwing out one of his huge signature 360 double tailwhips. As Whistler held its breath though, things stated to look like that weren't going to plan for Martin as he came in to land possibly the most important trick of his career. Sadly, physics and physiology got the better of him and his left leg took a devastating impact, leading to a huge crash. Martin had clearly broken his lower leg during the crash but again, the medics were on site within seconds, along with fellow riders, and was whisked off the course - almost directly beneath the finishing Red Bull arch - and straight to hospital.
Victory celebrations for Brandon and Sam were a little more sombre than in previous years owing to Martin's condition, but the champagne flowed, crowds cheered and some lucky autograph-hunters got their souvenirs. Fast-forwarding a few days, Martin underwent surgery on his broken leg, putting him out of this year's final events on the FMB World Tour, but Crankworx Whistler's 10th anniversary Joyride event will go down in mountain-biking folklore as one of the best ever, and something we were really pround to be a part of.