As well as the World Cup in La Bresse and the Enduro Des Nations the other big mountain bike event was the Bearclaw Invitational SLopestyle comp that took place in Mount Washington, Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
The Bearclaw Invitational is regarded by slopestylers as one of the, if not the, best competitions on the circuit partly due to it's rider run ethos, organisation and course. Dan Barham (sometimes Spoke photo contributor, Englishman adrift in a sea of North Americanism, and the lead role in the soon to be produced 'Crushing Dan Barham TV series) and myself took the long drive and ferry ride to Mount Washington in order to make a first class journalistic approach to covering the event; but what happened is that we got there late, got tired in the sunshine and then retreated to the beer garden because it offered the best view of the course.
The course looked serious. Big jumps, drops and stunts were sewn through a lovely stretch of wood land rather than just plonked in the middle of a ski run at a resort. Riders were definitely a little nervous about the course in comparison to some other contests and it showed that the top riders really are a space mile ahead of the competition in some respects. It wasn't just the trick rats or brave souls that did well, the riders who could ride a bike at speed and work quickly were the ones that stood higher up the score board.
The comp was great to attend but there was some odd things that took away from the event from a spectators perspective. The strangest thing about the comp was the huge intermission between run one and run two. Rather than roll straight into run two there was a long wait that meant a lot of spectators got bored and walked off in search of food, drink, or the beach. It turns out the reason for the delay was a problem with the judging. After run one Semenuk was placed fourth even though his run was clearly bangers. After it was brought to the attention of the judges they decided to cross out his score and re-mark Semenuk in first place using what some people described as an arbitrary number that looked better. You can see from the above photo the scribbles where they juggled scores around. There was a riders meeting where this was explained and although most people agreed that Semenuks first run was worthy of the first place, it put the cat amongst the pigeons because it showed the flaws in the FMBs judging process.
Back in March the FMB announced that it had been conducting judging courses in order to produce "a universal judging system [which] allows for a fair and reliable ranking system as well as the possibility of comparing performances. Such criteria as overall precision, including the execution of the run and the routine attempted as well as sequences of tricks, the amount of risk in the routine, and how the rider uses the course form the basis of the judging. Using the established guidelines, the judges are looking forward to providing more clarity and professionalism in competition judging." (Taken from a PR on PinkBike.com on March 21st 2011. Click HERE to read it)
So if we believe that a universal judging system was properly implemented at the Bearclaw Invitational then what does this mean for the system? Well, it is in it's first year and there will always be issues in getting such a system - which relies on establishing a system that attempts to objectively evaluate something using humans with our innate biases, opinions, and subjectivity - to operate smoothly.
However, it shows something good in that the judges and riders were flexible enough to rectify a mistake which could of really got a lot of people into trouble. I have a feeling if the FIS made such a mistake then they wouldn't be willing to publicly do an about turn on the scores. In the end the results were right and the right riders took the result they deserved. Semenuk took the win with a clinical and stylish run, Anthony Messere shut the front door and sealed his place in many future chapters of freeride history (thanks for the commentary Brad, it was as tastefully done as we have come to expect from you), and Berrecloth over came massive hurdles (broken back, pneumonia, and lung infection) to not only compete, but build the course from scratch and then crush it with a run stacked full of big ballsy moves (including 360 the wooden skinny at the start). Full results at the bottom.
After the event there was a high jump contest (see the above shonky I-Phone photo taken by Seb "blowing it" Kemp because shooter Dan "blowing it" Barham was enjoying his beer too much) which looked like it was going to be a funny spectacle so we ordered another round of beers and got to giggling. The high jump took place on the QP/Flat banks at the end of the course and had gone untested before the event, so for the first five minutes we were treated to a display of bike throwing, tumbles and heavy cases as riders attempted to adapt to the very steep transition. We didn't think anyone was going to make it past the first marker but soon the cream rose to the top and we had a high jumping battle between Semenuk, the Claw, McCaul and, of course, the jumping flea, Anthony Messere. In the end Messere boosted higher than anyone and even attempted to raise his own level but couldn't with one attempt and by then everyone was ready for leaving the course and getting on with the partying.
Sidenote: In the past two weeks the phrase "15 year old phenom" has been way overused to describe Anthony Messere. Yes, he is a young prodigy (loose dictionary definition) but does everyone have to use the word phenom? It sounds like they are describing him as a womens hormone supplement pill. Actually, when I typed phenom into know-it-all mega machine Google the first hit that came up was this...
"Phenom (pronounced /fɨˈnɒm/, as in the word phenomenon) is the AMD desktop processor line based on the K10 (not "K10h") microarchitecture, or Family 10h Processors, as AMD calls them. Triple-core versions (codenamed Toliman) belong to the Phenom 8000 series and quad cores (codenamed Agena) in the AMD Phenom X4 9000 series. Phenom processors are 64-bit." (Taken from Wikipedia)
Is this true? Is Anthony Messere a cybernetic machine sent to challenge the undead zombie of Brandon Semenuk? I hope so because what slopestyle needs is more weird sci-fi craziness.
1 Brandon Semenuk 90
2 Anthony Messeres 87.3
3 Darren Berrecloth 85.67
4 Sam Pilgrim 84.67
5 Yannick Granieri 83
6 Jamie Goldman 82.67
7 Cameron McCaul 79.67
8 Kurt Sorge 77.67
9 Greg Watts 76.67
10 Justin Wyper 73.67
11 Ryan Howard 67.3
12 Erick Lawrenuk 59
13 Geoff Gullevich 58
14 Bret Rheeder 52.3
15 Cam Zink 48.67
16 Jordie Lunn 45
17 Sam Dueck 40.3
18 Mitch Chubey 36.67
19 Graham Aggasiz DNS
20 Casey Groves DNS
21 Kyle Strait DNS