There have been plenty of thrills and spills to talk about and discuss from this year. We spoke to the top 3 FMB World Tour 2013 riders about progression and consistency to get their take on what went down and find out what we can expect next year. Our sport is one of high consequence and when it goes wrong -- it can go very wrong as two of our podium riders, Martin Soderstrom (2nd overall) and Brett Rheeder (3rd overall) found out. Freeride mountain biking is constantly progressing but is throwing down the biggest tricks more valuable than consistency? Keep reading and you'll find out.
Let's cut to the chase! Sam Pilgrim has become the first ever European athlete to win the FMB World Tour since its establishment in 2010. Sam has clearly demonstrated great professionalism at all the contests he attended but what was his key to success? We asked the man himself: "Consistency and not crashing was the key to this years world tour I think!" Sam's competition was fierce and until both Martin and Brett had to retire from the battle due to injuries it really was anyone's game. Saying this Sam didn't seem too fazed and remained confident in his ability to take the title: "Well, there was a point when Brett started to creep into the lead, luckily I managed to bring that back, but there were some close calls, Martin was also very close. I think it just made the season very exciting!" So what now? Is Sam looking for a double FMB World Tour title or has he achieved his goal and now looking to let someone else take the glory? Of course he wants to keep the winning streak going and his tactics are simple: "win as much as possible and at least stay on the podium if I'm not winning!"
Martin Soderstrom came in second overall this season -- despite a slow start during the early parts of the season, Martin quickly gained momentum and was not only sending insane runs with some of the most technical tricks in the sport, but also incorporating so much steez into his style, he made it look easy. Then, at Red Bull Joyride at Crankworx Whistler, the world was gripped by the battle between Martin and Brandon Semenuk and we all know how that ended. Breaking both his Fibula and Tibia, Martin's season was over. Despite once again missing out on his dream season victory, Martin is in high spirits and looks back fondly over the season: "It was awesome to see new contenders in the fight for the top spots. It´s been kind of the same faces for a while now." Martin agrees that although the competition level was off the chart, staying healthy was the best trick you could have in the bag this year: "Brett definitely came out swinging this year. Me on the other hand, I had a pretty slow first half of the tour, not sure why, I guess the confidence was just not there in my riding and had some footslips and bad results. Sam did pretty much what he´s been doing the last 7 years, just being consistent. He was riding great all year with podium spots pretty much at every single event and that´s how you win a tour, to stay that consistent all year is not easy, just look at me and Brett." Those who know Martin, know he is rarely disheartened, although he has never sustained an injury like this before, so will it effect his performance next season? "In the end I think it will only make me a smarter rider and hopefully that will win me the overall title next year!"
Brett Rheeder though is probably one of the most determined riders on the tour -- you can just see it in his eyes and his riding. If there ever was a rider who lives by the saying 'first chair, last call', it's Brett -- always first on course and last to leave, getting his run completely dialed for the finals and leaving nothing to chance. His tactics were working, standing on the podium from the earlier events in the season, but then Crankworx Les 2 Alpes threw a spanner in the works. Fracturing his back while attempting a flipwhip, that was Brett's last contest for the season. When the news broke, Canadian hearts were broken and jaws dropped wide open -- how can this happen to an athlete that has shown so much consistency and fluidity. That's just how the cookie crumbles in freeride mountain biking -- anything can happen at anytime. There is no doubt that Brett had the skills to take it all the way -- he is one of the few riders who can nail almost all of his tricks in opposite, something that is highly marked by the FMBA judges. Needless to say, we are looking forward to seeing Brett come back next season.
Speaking of next season, can the level really still get much higher? Can the tricks get even more technical? Can the courses get even bigger? There is always room for progression, in every aspect of the sport but no one feels the pressure more than the athletes who have to work on diversity and consistency. No matter how experienced the athlete is, it is easy to fall down the ranking. Diversity doesn't seem to be a major concern of Martin's though: "The overall level at contests these days is so high and the courses are so long that you pretty much have to show different tricks all the way down to keep it exciting and to impress the judges. I have realized this fits my style pretty well because if I throw in a flip combo I don't have to do some technical 360 combo, so it kind of makes my run easier." All in all, consistency seems to the winning ticket for next season -- but consistency can be a gamble. Play it safe with a solid run and maybe loose out, or send it big and risk everything -- this season was all about sending it big and you can expect to see even more where that came from, in 2014.
Final predictions? Well according to the Champ, "another European will win the world tour and I'd like it to be Martin!" Martin Soderstrom on the other hand thinks „we are going to have a wider range of riders fighting for the top spots, which is always fun. But in the end you need experience to do good in a tour so it´s going to come down to the same riders plus hopefully Semenuk."
To round things up, keep your eyes pealed for more news about the 2014 season -- there are some exciting changes in store and new developments. The FMBA will be releasing the news shortly. The first FMB World Tour 2014 event will kick off in January and the FMBA will be releasing the full calendar soon.