VAIL — Slopestyle mountain biker Garrett Robertson is used to thrilling crowds at the Mountain Games.
In February of 2013, he won the Winter Mountain Games’ mountain bike big air competition by being the only competitor in the field to perform a front flip off the 45-foot, snow-covered jump.
On Friday, he was once again the only competitor in the field trying one particular trick, a roller coaster-style loop-de-loop feature which no one else was attempting.
“While I was upside down I heard everyone just erupt,” Robertson said. “It was amazing.”
That trick helped Robertson walk away with the win in the GoPro Mountain Games freeride slopestyle competition Friday night, earning him $4,000 and a spot in the Red Bull District Ride in the old town of Nuremberg, Germany, in September. Entry into that event, which was a favorite among riders but has been on hold since 2011, definitely sweetened the pot for competitors on Friday.
“I didn’t get an invite, so this is huge,” Robertson said on the District Ride Wild Card entry plaque. “I’m so excited for it.”
Robertson said his “lawn-dart” front flip in Vail in 2013 was one of his proudest accomplishments as an athlete. He had crashed three times attempting the trick that night, the fourth attempt was the last he was afforded in the time allotment, and rather than going for a safety trick to give himself a better shot at the money, he attempted the lawn dart one more time in an all-or-nothing move for first place.
“The harder you have to work for it, the better it is,” he said. “Just because I did crash so many times and then finally got it, it made it that much better for me.”
On Friday, slopestyle finalist Josh Hult, who would go on to place second behind Robertson, said he saw a similar level of determination in Robertson while he was attempting the vertical loop.
“Not one person here wanted anything to do with that feature,” Hult said. “(Robertson) got worked in practice. He took some serious slams figuring it out. He was the only one to hit it, and to see him hit it and keep going in a run was pretty awesome.”
The five-feature course offered riders a choice on the third feature, either opt for Robertson’s vertical loop or hit a standard jump next to it. Leading into that third feature in finals, Robertson had landed a 360-degree spin off the first feature and a backflip off the second. He said as he came into the loop he had somehow found extra speed in finals, which helped.
“I came down, landed good, managed to get a bar spin on the jump after it and finished it off with a downside tail whip on the hip at the end,” he said.
1ST TIME IN 1ST AFTER 1ST
The field of 16 finalists had been narrowed down from more than 50 competitors in preliminary rounds. Riders were given two attempts in finals to put down their best run; judges scored the run on a 100-point scale. Robertson led the field after Round 1. He said it was the first time he had ever led the field after the first round in a competition.
“I had a 94, and the second-place score was a 92, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to hang on or not,” he said.
In his second run, his timing didn’t go as well in the vertical loop and while he did land it, he didn’t maintain enough speed to make it to the fourth jump.
“Luckily my first run hung on and I was able to get the win,” he said.
Hult performed back-to-back double tail whips on features three and four, with the second tail whip running opposite of the first, for another crowd favorite.
“That was my favorite trick of the comp,” said Mongoose rider Greg Watts.
Hult, who was the oldest competitor to make finals at the age of 30, said he was close to not competing that evening due to injuries sustained in practice.
“I was legitimately worried about even riding,” Hult said. “I was chipping rocks out of my knee with a pocket knife.”