From unveiling an entirely new Slopestyle course and competing in sub-zero temperatures to witnessing Emil Johansson continue his winning streak, the second event of the 2021 Crankworx FMBA Slopestyle World Championship was nothing short of spectacular.
Two-years in the making, the new Slopestyle course at SilverStar Bike Park combined the creative vision, style, and innovation of pro riders Brett Rheeder and Matt MacDuff. The six features were built with maximum progression in mind so that riders have the ability to focus on their tricks rather than the course, and that they most certainly did.
Rheeder noted that the “course wasn’t designed to have the biggest, gnarliest features,” rather it was to provide riders with “features more similar in size to what [they] actually practice on at home.” So, when Griffin Paulson scored a fourth-place finish during his first ever Crankworx Slopestyle performance and credited his run to feeling “right at home on the course,” we knew Rheeder and MacDuff had accomplished what they set out to do.
The Slopestyle course held up well through Canada’s fall weather thanks to SilverStar’s pristine building environment, with MacDuff highlighting the “beautiful tall straight trees, shale rock for foundations, and legendary ‘coffee grounds’ like dirt.” Even with the morning’s sub-zero temperatures and incredulous rains throughout training, the course was in perfect condition for the day of the main event.
However, this was not without a little extra support from the crew working behind-the-scenes to make sure that everything was thawed and dried out in time for riders to hit the course each day. Mountain bikers are nothing if not committed to the exhilaration that is all-time-fall-time riding.
We knew that we were in for quite the show, given the level of runs riders were putting down during practice… Just take a look at the absolute insanity that was Nicholi Rogatkin as he tested out the whale tail feature. What we didn’t know was just how many firsts we were going to bear witness to over the course of the main event.
Griffin Paulson set the bar high when he opened the competition with a score of 84.66, not to mention that this was his first ever Crankworx Slopestyle event. As the lone Canadian in the group, Paulson was surely feeling the pressure of hometown glory, recognizing that Crankworx is “the biggest stage” in mountain biking. But, feeling right at home with “the Canadian Slopestyle vibe [and] the big wide-open jumps with high speed,” the rookie’s bright future was apparent from run one.
Placed fourth going into his second run, Paulson had his sights set on a podium finish, and after debating whether or not to play it safe ahead of leaving for Crankworx Rotorua, he decided to go all in. His riding was eager, aggressive, and exciting to watch, and although a crash dashed his podium dreams, it was a win nonetheless for the rider determined to be along the entire 2022 Crankworx World Tour.
David Godziek made a return to Crankworx Slopestyle competition for the first time since Crankworx Innsbruck Slopestyle 2020 and found himself atop the podium with a third-place finish. After scoring an 89 on his first run down the newly built Slopestyle course, Godziek was satisfied with holding safe on his run and making a return to the Crankworx podium. Even though it was long and challenging, Godziek still described the course as “the best [he’s] ever ridden at Crankworx,” a nod to the artful craftsmanship of Rheeder and MacDuff.
Erik Fedko also found himself atop the Crankworx Slopestyle podium with his first ever silver medal after landing a run worthy of a 91.66 from the judges. Even with “[not] feeling that good in practice,” due to a mix of rainy days, sub-zero temperatures, and difficulties with course speed, Fedko reacted to his second-place finish very simply: “I’m just hyped.”
The high score should have come as no surprise to the German rider though after he managed another personal first when he landed a 360 windshield wiper in competition. All smiles in the finish corral after what Paulson deemed “one of the best ever Fedko runs,” Fedko reaped the rewards of his risky run.
While a first-place finish is no first for the Swedish rider, Emil Johansson scored a 95 from the judges after premiering not one, not two, but three first-ever tricks in a competition: a switch truck to down whip off a step down, a switch three dub whip, and a truck to double down whip. Not only that, but this was the first time Johansson had done those tricks to dirt before – and yes, that means he didn’t even do it during practice.
Johansson has also found himself in a position where for the first time since Nicholi Rogatkin in 2018, a rider has the opportunity to claim the Triple Crown of Slopestyle. With a win at the final 2021 Crankworx FMBA Slopestyle World Championship event of the season, Johansson would be the second rider ever to earn the legendary crown.
So, after stomping an epic run during Crankworx BC, what does the young rider think of the opportunities that lie ahead? He is simply “going to try [his] best, as always, and see where it takes [him].”
While the competition was tense, nothing speaks to the true comradery of this tight-knit group of riders like twelve of the world’s best Slopestyle athletes cheering on first- and second-place finishers, Emil Johansson and Erik Fedko, as they ran a train victory lap – and yes, you guessed it, for the first time ever.
Take a look at the final results from what we already know is a Crankworx Slopestyle competition that will be in the history books.
As we look ahead to the final event of the 2021 Crankworx FMBA Slopestyle World Championship, we can’t help but wonder what riders have in store. Will Emil Johansson be the second rider ever to win the Triple Crown of Slopestyle? Will Griffin Paulson pull out a podium finish during his debut season on the Crankworx World Tour? Only time will tell, but there is one thing that we are certain of…
Crankworx Rotorua’s Maxxis Slopestyle in Memory of McGazza on November 6th is sure to be the best end to the 2021 Crankworx FMBA Slopestyle World Championship.