The Queenstown Bike Festival has kicked off this week. Today was the first official practice day for the Teva Slopestyle shindig.
Words and Photos: Patrick Fallon
Today was another absolutely mint autumn day in Queenstown – cool in the shade but hot in the sun and not a breath of wind.
In other words perfect conditions for the first official day of practice for the Teva Slopestyle. Judging by the forecast this amazing weather is due to continue for the next few days so we should also see perfect conditions for the slopestyle and best trick finals tomorrow night.
Kiwi local Phil McLean, super extended superman.
The slopestyle course is set in a two level outdoor carpark in the heart of Queenstown. Riders start from a 7 metre high scaffolding tower start ramp with a wooden lip to a 6 metre dirt step down. This is followed by a wooden booter to wall-ride, then step-up/step-down fruit bowl that steps-down onto the lower level of the car-park. The final feature is a massive wood to dirt trick booter.
The slopestyle course opened for riding yesterday afternoon but only a handful of riders were in town and riding the course at that stage. Canadian Pro Sam Dueck and Aussie ripper Benny Phillips were ripping it up – Benny threw a couple of double back-flips and a double bar-spin back-flip on the big trick booter at the bottom of the course. Sam was also looking pretty smooth and threw the first tail-whip off the start ramp 6 metre gap (the course builders tell me it’s a 6 metre gap but it looks a hell of a lot more than that to me). But he was coming to terms with a new prototype Norco full-sus bike and also said he’s been out of the slopestyle scene for a while and was just getting back into it. He hit the eject button a few times yesterday but walked away unhurt (if a little shaken). He seemed pretty comfortable with the course and the bike today, so he’s sure to be one of the favourites come finals tomorrow night.
Benny Phillips, bar-spin back-flip.
This morning a bunch more riders, including a host of young Kiwi rippers, turned up for practice. The morning’s practice session started off pretty mellow, with a lot of riders only having laid eyes o the course for the first time. But everybody seemed to be enjoying the course that Tom Hey and McGazza had build. By the time the evening practice session came round some big tricks were being thrown down and all the riders looked like they had the course dialed.
Benny Phillips, double bar-spin back-flip yesterday afternoon (first hour or two of practise).
Benny and Sam seemed content to hold back a little bit today, just working on throwing tricks on a particular jump each run rather than stringing together complete, trick-heavy runs. Young Kiwi rippers Lewis Jones and Elmo Cotter were throwing down big time, with plenty of amplitude and speed and uber-tech trick combos. Local lad Conor MacFarlane was also looking really strong in practice, and was throwing together more consistent, multi-trick runs than almost anybody. Kiwi BMXer Paul Langland was also looking super snappy and fast and throwing down some big moves on his BMX, but later in the afternoon he switched to a hardtail mountain bike so he could compete in the slopestyle. (Only the best trick is open to BMXers, for some reason nobody seems to know BMXers are not allowed to compete in the slopestyle).
Sam Dueck, tail-whip off the start ramp step-down.
Kelly “McGazza” McGarry, tuck no-hander off the fruit-bowl.
Judging from what we’ve seen so far the finals are going to be insane. The course is set dead smack in the middle of Queenstown so we can expect the Ballarat Street carpark to be wall to wall with spectators, media and riders by 6pm tomorrow night. The riders will be laying it all on the line and we can expect some spectacular bails and some large and super-tech tricks…I’ll be posting fresh photos and updates tomorrow afternoon after the final practice session and also tomorrow evening…stay tuned.