Speed & Style Cairns brings big speed and huge tricks to Smithfield MTB Park.
“You have some wins, and it’s cool, but that one was special.” This from Australia’s Harriet Burbidge-Smith, who brought home the W tonight in head-to-head Speed & Style Cairns racing at Smithfield MTB Park.
“It was a combination of everything,” explained the Red Bull rider. “The flips is a big thing for me. It’s a new thing for me, so to get them in every run, that’s still a battle for me. They feel good but it’s still scary, which maybe takes off the pressure ‘cause I’m not thinking about racing, I’m just thinking about getting that dialled. That, and I haven’t had a good Crankworx win this year, so that felt really good. And to do it in Australia is really sick.”
Alonside Haz on the top step, a seemingly unstoppable force in the discipline. Tomas Lemoine almost didn’t make the trip to Cairns, as he has been rehabbing an injury. His win today is his ninth win in the discipline since 2017, including three for three this year.
“It feels amazing,” said the 26-year-old. “Having a first place is always a good time for sure. The course was insane. I was a bit injured since Whistler and didn’t really ride. So I didn’t expect too much from myself, I just tried to come and enjoy the moment. It’s a good start to the week. It will give me a good bit of motivation I guess. I have more events coming…so I’m going to celebrate it a little bit, and make sure I’m staying positive and focused.”
The course they won on was a joint effort by Elevate Trail Building and Flux Trail.
At 285 meters long (per track), it featured a variety of speed, technicality, and air time. It was made up of seven berms, a shark fin, and two jumps (6.5m gap - 2.85m high). Other notable features included a berm section, shark fin on/off, rock garden, and banked half pipe turns
“It was sick,” said Haz. “So much variety. It made it tight racing. Even in the last run I decided to do the gap in the rhythm straight. So still by the final run, you’re on your toes trying to get a bit faster.”
“So much fun,” echoed third place finisher Anthony Messere. “The track is so much fun. Some really tight berms and then this little rhythm section over the rock garden in the middle. It’s so fast you’re pinned through there. It almost feels like you’re going through a rhythm section on a motorbike.”
One rider who was pinned all day was second place finisher Vaea Verbeeck.
“I’m feeling bittersweet but I’m trying to focus on the goods,” said the reigning Queen of Crankworx, who consistently won for speed, but was penalized for missing a trick on one of the jumps in her second matchup with Haz in the finals. “I can’t help but be disappointed when I miss a trick. I think I need to learn to do the thinking before I drop into my run. Mid-run I made a bad decision and tried to do a sui, which I only did once the whole week, versus I could have done a tuck-no hander and settled for half the points. It’s just split seconds, and you’re racing, and, I don’t know. I’m still learning. I’m very stoked for Haz. I think she freaking nailed it. In finals, pulled off the gap line, which is super sick. I just wish I did a trick and I would have been happier than losing this way, ya know?”
Alongside Verbeeck, Garret Mechem shared the sweet but bitter feeling of finishing one step below the top.
“I wanted it so bad. I basically gave my all, every lap, even through semis. Knowing that everybody was basically on it, and that all 16 people on the start list can show up. It’s just a ‘best man wins’ kind of a deal. And that was Tomas today.”
Overall, the American was stoked on his day. Today’s is his best Crankworx result in a racing format, as well as his “first time in the big final in Speed & Style.”
“It was cool learning from Tomas,” he added. “He’s an animal.”
Like Verbeeck, who sustained a blown ACL early in 2022, Mechem has been battling back after crashing in the Whip-Offs in Innsbruck in June. “This is my first race back from injury. And this wasn’t even really my idea of what would happen on this trip. So to be in second place, I’m very proud. I’ve learned, I’ll come back stronger next year, and I’m ready to go.”
Verbeeck echoed his focus on learning, and pushing forward: “You learn, you keep going, you get better. I just need to learn and get better faster than the other girls.”
Among the riders battling through injury, third place finisher Caroline Buchanan was perhaps least certain of her ability to ride.
“It was wild,” said the Australian. “The last few weeks have been straight rehab, I didn’t know I was coming here until a few days ago. I really wanted to get here, this is an event that I wanted to race in. I have never been able to compete in a Crankworx in my home country. My parents haven’t travelled for three years to watch me compete so this was one I wasn’t going to miss, I wasn’t going to sit this one out.”
Results: Speed & Style Cairns
Tomas Lemoine (FRA) // Harriet Burbidge-Smith (AUS)
Garret Mechem (USA) // Vaea Verbeeck (CAN)
Anthony Messere (CAN) // Caroline Buchanan (AUS)