A dramatic Red Bull Joyride slopestyle witnessed a night of firsts at the 15th Crankworx on Saturday. It was first time the Triple Crown of Slopestyle was awarded, the first Slopestyle World Champion was named, and it was the first time in 15 years the final run had won Red Bull Joyride.
Local Canadian, and crowd favourite Brett Rheeder came into Joyride with his sights set on getting back to the top of the biggest podium in slopestyle competition. His first run down the Joyride was looking good until he crashed on the final course feature. With Joyride’s best of two run format, the Canadian’s second run would be his only chance to repeat as Joyride champion.
Meanwhile, Rheeder’s season-long rival Nicholai Rogatkin had lay down an impressive first run. His score of 92.75 had put him at the top of the field. Rogatkin had already won two of the three Crankworx World Tour slopestyle events this season, putting him in contention for the coveted, but never claimed Triple Crown of Slopestyle title. The award, which has never been won since it was created, awards $25, 000 to any rider that can with three Crankworx slopestyle events in a single season. Rheeder was the last rider to come close when he won two of three events in 2015.
The start order for the second run followed riders rankings after the first run. This meant Rheeder would be near the start of the order, and Rogatkin would drop last. With Rogatkin in the lead, Rheeder had to put the pain of his first run-crash aside to try get ahead of his American rival.
“I just kept my head where it needed to be. I needed to go back up and do that run,” said the 25-year-old Canadian. “I’ve never worked this hard toward something. I had to.”
Drawing on his signature style, Rheeder looked effortless in his second run, hitting the backflip tailwhip flat drop that had ended his first run. The impressive run was rewarded with a 94.5 from the judges, putting Rheeder in the hot seat. Still at the top of the course, Rogatkin’s first round score meant he would be the last rider to drop in at 2018 Red Bull Joyride.
“Brett has put that pressure on me a few times,” said Rogatkin. “I’ve gone into first, he’s taken it over and I’ve had to step it up. His riding is insane and he was on it today. It basically made me have to go 100% all-in which, fortunately, I’ve done before.”
With 35, 000 fans packed around the Joyride course, and the $25, 000 Triple Crown of Slopestyle on the line, all eyes were on Rogatkin as he dropped in for his final run. The American slopestyle phenom nailed an incredibly complex run, linking his signature Twister straight into a double backflip to win 2018 Red Bull Joyride.
In a single run, Rogatkin set three firsts. Landing his third Crankworx slopestyle win of the season, the American became the first rider to claim the Triple Crown of Slopestyle since the awards inception. “Never before have we had the last guy drop in and win the contest, let alone the Triple Crown,” said Crankworx World Tour General Manager Darren Kinnaird. “In 15 years of Crankworx.” It was also the first time Rogatkin, who has stood on the top step at every other Crankworx venue over his career, had ever won Joyride.
“I feel absolutely honoured to even have the opportunity to win this award today. To take it home…” said Rogatkin, struggling to find the words to describe his win “…I’m absolutely speechless. I just have to thank everyone for believing in me that this was possible, because honestly it’s a feat that a lot of us in slopestyle riders didn’t think was possible. I’m over the moon.”
While it is his first win at Joyride, Rogatkin has a long history at the event. “A Red Bull Joyride win means the world to me. I came to this event back in 2013 just to ride Best Trick when I was just getting into mountain biking. The atmosphere, the riding, everything about this event inspired me to push it and push myself as far as I could go,” said Rogatkin. “Years later, to take the win here is an absolutely special moment for me, one I’ll never forget, and also one that I thought might never happen.”
While second wasn’t what Rheeder was looking for going into Joyride, Rheeder’s points for his third straight second place finish add enough to his win at the first round in Rotorua to put the Canadian first in the overall. With Rogatkin close behind in second, Rheeder was crowned the first ever Crankworx FMBA Slopestyle World Champion.
While winning Joyride, the biggest event in slopestyle and his home country venue, is always one of Rheeder’s main goals, the Canadian was positive about how his year had gone. “If I was to summarize my season, I would probably say it was the best season I’ve had,” said Rheeder.“I wish I’d stomped my first run and then had more in the tank for my second run, but I didn’t get that today. But yeah, I’m in one piece. I really had to work for that though.”
With two giants of slopestyle dueling in front of him, Erik Fedko of Germany lay down an impressive run to land on the final step of the podium in Whistler. His third at Joyride also earned Fedko third in the series overall.
If you didn’t catch 2018 Red Bull Joyride live, you can re-watch the replay on Red Bull TV.