Brett Rheeder Wins X-Games Slopestyle in Munich
The first ever Mountain Bike Slopestyle event at the X-games went down today in Munich, Germany. After the weather played hard to get during the week, blue skies greeted the riders and spectators for finals day. It was however still very windy, and we saw the riders elect a lengthy course hold at the start of the event. That could easily have messed with a few minds, standing there on top of the massive start feature with the world watching...and it did.
The Red Bull Phenom final (a separate invitational event for young riders held on the same course) went down earlier in the day and provided a sneak peek at what was to follow. Anton Thelander ended up taking the win there after a sick run which included one of the few big tricks we saw on the final step down, a huge 360 that he barely rode out of.
Main event qualifying action was pretty intense already - the course in Munich is big, and the tricks hard to come by. Cam and Ty McCaul invented the Brotherly Double Slam - the brothers crashing on consecutive tailwhip attempts off the first feature. Sadly it was a feat that would keep them both out of the finals. Rheeder took the top qualifying spot with an impressive run featuring a 3 off the start drop, a front flip on the big step up, and a trick on almost all the remaining features, closely followed by Brandon Semenuk who definitely didn't look like a rider who hasn't been competing this year. The following 10 riders made the main event (in reverse order - 1st place qualifier listed at the bottom):
When the contest finally got going, many hours after the originally scheduled start time, Genon, Henke, Granieri, and Soderstrom all elected not to ride, still not comfortable with the conditions (or the delay).
Mountain biking was left with 6 riders to represent the sport in front of the worldwide X-games audience. Andreu looked like he flatted on the first jump, throwaway run for him. The Claw had a solid first run, two 360s off the big drops and into the early lead with a 65.
Kurt Sorge took a big slam coming up short on a backflip on the second feature, but although he was clearly shaken up, he would return for his second run. Cam Zink was going for broke as of run one, attempting a superman seatgrab backflip on the second feature, which he failed to land after missing the saddle grab. He'd attempt a backflip nac on his second run on that same feature, but it would prove to be his undoing - another crash there put an end to his x-games medal hopes.
Brandon Semenuk threw down a backflip on the massive start drop (hard to imagine how scary this has to be without any kind of lip), followed by an over-rotated flip-whip to slide-out on the second feature - amazingly he got up and finished his run, enough to move into 2nd place at that point in the contest. It was clear that if he could stick his run, it would be very hard to beat.
And then there was one. First-place qualifier Brett Rheeder dropped in and laid down a monster first run. 3 off the first drop, flip-whip, front flip over the massive step up, barspins galore - only to throw it all away by over-rotating the final 3-drop and taking a massive slam, writing off his rear wheel in the process. He had to scramble the pits to repair his bike in time for run two. No doubt Semenuk and Rheeder were riding at another level at this point - but would they stick their runs?
Going into the second run, it was up to Semenuk or Rheeder to close out the deal. Andreu started things off with a solid second run, couple of big can-cans on his way to taking the lead with a 77. The Claw improved on his first run by tweaking his 3 drops, and although he missed a couple of trick opportunities it was enough for a 75.33 and second place at that point. Sorge played it safe after his big crash, major props to him for getting after it again - this is what showmanship is all about.
And then, there were two. Semenuk stomped an absolutely huge run. Backflip drop, flip-whip, double tailwhip on the step-up, barspins everywhere, big 3 drop to end - his 96 was head and shoulders above everybody else, and it was clear that Rheeder had his work cut out for him.
But boy did Rheeder respond. Oppo 3, flip whip, front flip barspin(!), backflip barspin, only the last drop left....he put down a 360 drop smooth as you like, and nobody could contest his 97.33. Brett Rheeder is your first ever Mountain Bike Slopestyle Gold Medalist - CONGRATS!