Brandon Semenuk takes gold at Crankworx slopestyle event in Whistler
After sitting out most of the season, hometown hero returns to claim the podium
After sitting out most of the 2017 mountain bike season, Whistler's own Brandon Semenuk took home the gold for the fifth time at Crankworx Whistler's Redbull Joyride slopestyle finals.
Each year, on the final Sunday of the mountain bike festival, Crankworx goes out with a bang as thousands of visitors flood the village and the hillside to watch the premier mountain biking event that focuses on big jumps and even bigger tricks.
"I don't remember the last time I jumped first so that was extremely stressful. I felt cold turkey, so thankful I got a good run," said Semenuk.
Semenuk, 26, has long been a crowd favourite in Whistler and on the global slopestyle circuit, but this season he's been focused on making mountain bike films and developing new tricks.
At the Redbull Joyride event in 2016, Semenuk — who claimed first place in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015 — had a bad start while trying a difficult trick off the large platform at the top of his run, and placed 14th.
But Semenuk has clearly been working out the kinks. The first trick of his nearly seamless run saw him throwing the same, risky move that took him out in 2016.
The move is known as a "half cab." To do it, Semenuk rode off a five-metre-tall platform backwards on his bike, rotated 180 degrees before hitting a dirt transition, about five metres ahead of him, and landed smoothly.
Riders are given two runs to impress the judges and on Semenuk's second lap he did not disappoint. But the tension built as Sweden's 17-year-old Emil Johansson attempted to bump Semenuk out of the lead.
<a href="https://twitter.com/BrandonSemenuk">@BrandonSemenuk</a> Shot this today in Whistler during your 2nd lap. Congrats on another impressive victory! <a href="https://t.co/GHpQBrsAKa">pic.twitter.com/GHpQBrsAKa</a>—@CrookBob
A normally nervous Semenuk sat uncharacteristically calm while Johansson looked rattled on his final run and fell short of dethroning the "slopestyle king."
Johansson still took home the overall Crankworx Slopestyle title for the year's four events.
"Give Emil another year or two to fill in the blanks and he will be the next unstoppable guy on the circuit," said Semenuk.
In a fitting end, Semenuk was in the midst of a crowd-pleasing victory lap when he crashed hard and twisted his handlebars.
In true mountain biker style, he dusted himself off, fixed his bike and finished the lap before celebrating at the bottom of the course.
How sweet it is. ✨🍾 Congrats to <a href="https://twitter.com/BrandonSemenuk">@brandonsemenuk</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/johanssoemil">@johanssoemil</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/RyanNyquist">@ryannyquist</a>, 1, 2, 3 in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RedBullJoyride?src=hash">#RedBullJoyride</a> 2017. Replay: <a href="https://t.co/RbMRCUkKtB">https://t.co/RbMRCUkKtB</a> <a href="https://t.co/2fsdYnQNPo">pic.twitter.com/2fsdYnQNPo</a>—@Crankworx