Nicholi Rogatkin (USA) stomped his way into the mountain bike history books in front of a crowd of over 35,000 fans at Crankworx Whistler today. His win at Red Bull Joyride marks his third this season. And with that, he becomes the first rider ever to claim the Triple Crown of Slopestyle.
“I feel absolutely honoured to even have the opportunity to win this award today. To take it home...” said an emotional Rogatkin, faltering, “...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.”
Beyond the Triple Crown, and the $25,000 bonus pay cheque that comes with it, the effort it took Rogatkin to win the day seemed historical in itself. Dropping in second last, the 22-year-old threw down a smooth, top-to-bottom run that included his signature Twister, straight into a double backflip. His score of 92.75 across the nine judgeable features, including giant dirt and wood jumps, at the base of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, boosted him to the top of the field.
Dropping in last in the first round of runs, all eyes were on Brett Rheeder (CAN) who’s spent much of 2018 battling it out with Rogatkin for the top of the podium.
Rheeder seemed on track to challenge for the lead, but went down on the final feature. It meant that heading into the second runs, the start order re-racked with Rheeder dropping in well before Rogatkin, the Canadian knew he had push through the pain and bring everything he had to the table.
“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. “I’ve never worked this hard toward something. I had to.”
He flowed through his second run seemingly effortlessly, pulling off the backflip tailwhip off the flat drop that took him down in run number one. He moved into the hot seat with a 94.5.
“Brett has put that pressure on me a few times,” said Rogatkin, who had to sweat it out in the start gate, set to close the contest and drop in last. “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.”
Dropping in last, Rogatkin seized the day and stepped it up from his first run.
“On some of those techy features I just had straight backflips so I think they [the judges] were like, ‘You’ve got to keep it less safe, you’ve got to throw variations in there,’ and that’s what I did,” he said. “I realized it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that second run, so I didn’t take it for granted. Went 100% all-in and somehow it worked.”\
“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.”
Beyond the Triple Crown, today’s win in the event is a first for Rogatkin, who had won every other Crankworx slopestyle contest, except this one.
“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. 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.”
And while Joyride’s top step wasn’t his today, the points Rheeder earned from his second place finish today solidify his first place finish in the overall. After the awards were handed out from the event, Rheeder and Rogatkin swapped podium spots. Rogatkin took second in the overall, while Rheeder was crowned the 2018 Crankworx FMBA Slopestyle World Champion.
“If I was to summarize my season, I would probably say it was the best season I’ve had,” said Rheeder, who started his season off with a win at Crankworx Rotorua, followed by three second place finishes, including today’s. Despite his success, Rheeder voiced some frustration with himself. “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.”
Young rookie Erik Fedko (GER) finishes his 2018 season with a bang, coming in third in Red Bull Joyride, a finish which also pushed him to third in the overall.
Full results from Red Bull Joyride are available HERE.