Last week we headed to Les Gets, France for the second of four stops on the Crankworx World Tour, and it was a big crew. The cast included Mark Scott, Iago Garay and Josh “Loosedog” Lewis from the SCB-SRAM Enduro Team; Free Agents Logan Peat, Josh Bryceland, Craig Evans, and Mitch Ropelato; Loris Vergier, Greg Minnaar from the Syndicate; and extra special guest Steve Peat. It was a busy week, but everyone killed it and had a good time doing it.
The event that started off Crankworx was the Whip Off. Iago Garay, Craig Evans, Ratboy and myself were all signed up and ready to throw it as sideways as we could with the other 50+ riders. Right as the event was about to start, the rain started to come in and the forecast did not look good for the rest of the night, but we get lucky with the rain holding as a light sprinkle until the event was over. Mitch wasn't even signed up for the Whip Off but the huge jump was so good he could help grabbing his 5010 and sending the biggest dipped 360s on the jump—the talent of that guy is unbelievable.
Even with the rain coming down riders were sending it, our crew included. The Whip Off is such a fun event because once it starts, it’s non-stop for the fans and riders alike, there are no breaks or even chances to catch your breath. If you’re not sprinting at the jump you’re running back up the hill for another run for about an hour straight. It’s not a very serious event so the vibe is always the highlight of the night. Everyone rode amazing, our crew as well as the locals that turned up that night. Results are never the reason to ride in the Whip Off but I was able to combine my skills on a BMX and Moto to pull off a 2nd place. It’s an extremely humbling experience to ride with the guys and girls I look up to let alone get a pat on the back for my efforts.
Next up on the schedule was Dual Speed and Style. If you aren't familiar with this event, imagine a hybrid between a Dual Slalom race and a Slopestyle contest. It’s like a slalom in the sense that it’s head to head racing and riders have to race on both the left and right sides of the track, utilizing the huge ramps to dirt jumps, and riders are scored for the tricks they pull. When a rider crosses the finish line first this doesn't mean that he automatically advances, that's just the Speed part. The rider with the higher score on the jumps earns a time advantage that in many cases bumps him past the rider that crossed the line first.
It’s a little confusing to picture just from my description, but with the combination of high speed head-to-head racing and high flying stunts, it's one of the most popular events at Crankworx The diversity of the event attracts 4x World Champs, Red Bull Rampage, winners and of course our own Mitch Ropelato.
During the event Mitch was looking super relaxed and confident as always, working his way through the brackets with an amazing mix of Speed and Style. Some races he would with with technical cornering and superhuman ability to pump the track, others it was his huge dipped one footed 360s.
With every win the races were getting faster and the stunts getting bigger. After the first race in the semis, Mitch was at a .64 deficit to the winner of the event in Rotorua, and overall winner here in Les Gets, Jakob Vencal. In the second round Mitch was on the slower side of the tracks and knew he would have to go big to make up the deficit—remember in Rotorua Mitch was in a similar position and went huge with a very unexpected front flip. We had a quick chat about it when he was on his way back to the top, he didn't feel comfortable with a front flip on this jump because it was a little short for the speed generated coming down the hill. It’s not widely-known but Mitch has a deep bag of tricks from his BMX days. He said the plan was to do a dipped Nac 360 and he headed up the hill. Mitch used his speed to stay side by side with Jakob even though he was on the slower of the 2 tracks, but heading into the last booter he knew the 360 Nac wasn’t going to be enough so he went for the front flip, over jumping just like he was worried about. This resulted in the hardest crash of the week, it took longer than usual but Mitch got up on under his own power and was okay, amzingly, we thought he was dead. Mitch decided to skip the Bronze rounds and settled for fourth place, it was a smart move.
Friday was Pumptrack day, qualifying was at midday, and Iago Garay, Ratboy and Craig Evans all made it to the night show. It was shocking to see Mitch back racing after the crash he had in Speed and Style just the day before, but he reminded us all to never count him out, ever. Not only did Mitch qualify, he had the fastest time and was the number one seed heading into the elimination brackets.
With a mix of mistakes and being seeded against faster riders, Craig, Rat and Iago all went out in the first round. They were all smiles and high fived though, and the Les Gets crowds were just as stoked to see these boys out of their normal racing shredding with the best in Pumptrack. Mitch was working through the field from behind in nearly every round, for whatever reason his starts were off that night, and when he reached the semis the gap was too much to make up. In the Bronze Metal round again Mitch came from a deficit in the second lap to take the win and 3rd place, a big accomplishment considering the beating he took the night before.
Saturday was a big day for the crew, and would see the most of our guys racing. It was the DH race and it was a special day for many reasons. At Crankworx there is no seeding or qualifying, no one knows where the competition sits, and that adds a bit more excitement. Loris and Greg had just come off of a 2-3 finish the weekend before at the World Cup in Leogang. It was the first time Rat was between the tape on a DH track since he decided to step away from the World Cup scene. It was Peaty’s Birthday, and the last time he raced this track was 13 years ago where a crash in the second to last turn with an 8 second lead at the World Champs in 2004. In addition, Minnaar, Peaty, and Fabien Barel were the only three riders in the DH field to race the World Champs in ‘04, and the Crankworx DH.
As the top riders were coming down the hill the times were incredibly tight with the top 12 finishers all in the same five seconds. Unfortunately Craig had a crash towards the bottom and slid off track and through the tape, but he still showed up to the bottom with a smile. Iago and Loose would come in with respectable mid-pack results, Loose showing the capability of the Nomad and Iago where his roots come from.
Even though Peaty is retired he gave the track no slack, not only did he make it all the way to the bottom without a crash, he was able to place 40th—beating the age he was turning on the day against an absolutely stacked field of World Cup racers. It was a cool moment at the finish, the French crowd showed their respect and as a group sang him Happy Birthday, legend doesn't come close to covering it. When Rat came through the finish the I couldn't tell who was more stoked to see him back racing DH, his fellow competitors or the fans. Josh’s approach to life and riding is intoxicating to say the least and any event is better with him there. DH is a game of momentum, and without racing DH for 8 months while the competition has been training and building up their speed, it was impressive to see Rat finish in 17th with his signature chill style.
The weekend before was the World Cup in Leogang where Loris finished second and Greg third, and that’s the way they would end up here as well, with only .95 seconds separating Greg and winner Troy Brosnan. This result helps the Syndicate boys continue to build their confidence as the number one and four ranked riders looking ahead to the next World Cup in two weeks in Andorra.
Air DH was next. Usually it’s DH race on a bike park track with lots of man made berms and jumps, like a long BMX track. But this was not your average Air DH. The track was full-on DH with rough, fresh cut sections and high-speed, off-camber grass turns. Pretty much all the World Cup racers were racing, and nearly everyone was on DH bikes. Loose and Mark were two of only three riders on trail bike. Loose was on the Nomad and Mark was using this race as training for his EWS efforts and on his Hightower. Iago, Craig, Rat, and Greg went with DH bikes.
It was one of those weeks for Craig, and he crashed just like in the DH race. Not too bothered, he was still smiling and ready to cheer for the rest of the crew coming down into the finish. Loose came through with a flat, not what he was hoping for but also stoked just to be on his bike with good weather and friends. Iago was visibly tired at the bottom of the track shaking his hands out after he crossed the line, tired from all the DH that his hands and arms just aren't used to on the EWS circuit, but stoked for the training he gained over the week. Mark came through on a flyer with the fastest time on a trail bike by a mile landing him in 24th, and racing against the world's fastest riders on DH bikes.
Without having a solid UCI ranking after stepping away from World Cups this year Rat went early in the start order, times like in the DH race were very tight till Rat came down on a flyer he went into the hot seat. He was there all the way up until the last two riders came down, Jack Moir, who would take the overall win, and then on the final run of the day Greg slipped into second putting Rat in third.
The Slopestyle event close out the week. Last year here in Les Gets the event was cancelled due to weather, so all the riders were ready to send it when the live feed started and send it they did. The course was huge with the biggest Whale Tale feature anyone had ever seen leading into a massive, 30ft, showtime booter.
The wind picked up a bit mid way through the event causing some riders to check up on their runs or even have crashes, but Logan Peat was able to get down with a solid run and land in 12th place when the dust settled. Logan had the smoothest 720s of the event doing them mid run and by far the highest flip whip on the final jump. Happy to walk away healthy and looking forward to doing it all over again this upcoming weekend for the next stop of the Crankworx World Tour in Innsbruck, Austria.
What a week to say the least, until next time, Peace.