Canadians open Crankworx Cairns with Speed and Style podiums
Messere and Verbeeck soar in first live-broadcast event in AustraliaPhoto by: Clint Trahan / Crankworx
Canadians are off to a fast (and stylish) start at the first-ever Crankworx Cairns, with two podium finishes in the Speed and Style event. Vaea Verbeeck added to her Queen of Crankworx title defence while Anthony Messere added a medal to his warm-up for the marquee slopestyle competition at the end of the week.
Women’s Speed and style: Hometown hero
In the women’s competition, Harriet Burbidge-Smith seized the rare opportunity to take a win at home. The Australian revelled in the victory in the first live broadcast event from Cairns.
“You have some wins, and it’s cool, but that one was special.” Burbidge-Smith, said in the finish corral. The win didn’t come without some stress. “It was a combination of everything. The flips is a big thing for me. It’s a new thing for me, so to get them in every run, that’s still a battle for me. They feel good but it’s still scary, which maybe takes off the pressure ‘cause I’m not thinking about racing, I’m just thinking about getting that dialled. That, and I haven’t had a good Crankworx win this year, so that felt really good. And to do it in Australia is really sick.”
For Canada’s Vaea Verbeeck, second place brought mixed emotions. It cements an impressive comeback from an ACL injury at Red Bull Formation. But it was also a near-miss on the win.
“I’m feeling bittersweet but I’m trying to focus on the goods,” said the reigning Queen of Crankworx, who missed one trick in finals. “I can’t help but be disappointed when I miss a trick. I think I need to learn to do the thinking before I drop into my run. Mid-run I made a bad decision and tried to do a sui, which I only did once the whole week, versus I could have done a tuck-no hander and settled for half the points. It’s just split seconds, and you’re racing, and, I don’t know. I’m still learning. I’m very stoked for Haz. I think she freaking nailed it. In finals, pulled off the gap line, which is super sick. I just wish I did a trick and I would have been happier than losing this way, ya know?”
Australia’s Caroline Buchanan, also returning from injury, landed third.
Men’s Speed and Style: Unstoppable Lemoine
Thomas Lemoine may have sent shockwaves through the mountain bike community with his massive send at Whistler’s Red Bull Joyride, but his most consistent success at Crankworx is in Speed and Style. The French rider landed his ninth win in the discipline since 2017. That includes a perfect three wins in three starts this year. And it almost didn’t happen. The French rider nearly stayed home to rehab an injury instead of making the long trip to Ciarns.
“It feels amazing,” said Lemoine. “Having a first place is always a good time for sure. The course was insane. I was a bit injured since Whistler and didn’t really ride. So I didn’t expect too much from myself, I just tried to come and enjoy the moment. It’s a good start to the week. It will give me a good bit of motivation I guess. I have more events coming…so I’m going to celebrate it a little bit, and make sure I’m staying positive and focused.”
Another rider repaid for his long journey to Australia is Canada’s Anthony Messere. More known for his slopestyle exploits, the Canadian enjoyed his Speed and Style success after finishing third in Cairns.
“The track is so much fun. Some really tight berms and then this little rhythm section over the rock garden in the middle,” Messere said after the event. “It’s so fast you’re pinned through there. It almost feels like you’re going through a rhythm section on a motorbike.”
Garret Mechem of the U.S.A. squeezed into second between Lemoine and Messere on the men’s podium.
Racing in Carins continues with the Crankworx Carins Downhill up next.