I knew it would be a tall order, but putting myself in these positions is nothing new. I had been grinding away for six weeks to get my recently repaired shoulder back to fighting shape. Bicep, tendon and labrum had been demolished, so the surgery was well warranted. However, the timeline was stressful. Since the adoption of a big Slopestyle event in the Southern Hemisphere, our "off-season" became pretty non existent. What was a slower time reserved for getting caught up with family and the occasional photo shoot, was replaced with a March event and having to stay on top of your game throughout the entire winter. To be competitive in the Cranworx World Tour, one must not only compete in each stop, but flourish. I am one of the few riders who competes in Slopestyle as well as other events. It is such a heavy discipline that it is reserved for specialists... or veterans I guess? I have been competing in nearly every aspect of mountain biking for my 21 years racing. Speed and Style, Downhill Racing, XC Racing, Speed Trials, Dirt Jumping, Big Mountain, Street Contests, and Snow Contests; I've done it all.
Now, at the Crankworx events you can find me competing in Best Whip, Speed and Style, PumpTrack and Slopestyle. I got a chance to spend my 30th birthday in New Zealand, which was a few days before the Rotorua stop of the Crankworx World Tour. Being the oldest rider invited to Slopestyle, I still don't feel senior-citizenish, or even any older than my 19 year old peers, but I was hurting. I pulled a muscle in my shoulder weeks before the contest, which was causing me a knee dropping amount of pain. At the time it felt like my nerve was getting chopped in half, so the riding was reserved for the foam pit and practicing tricks that don't require too much pulling up on the handlebars. If you are affluent in our sport, that leaves you with pretty much nothing. I have always said I will not worry and to just put myself in the best position possible. As my mom always said, "Give it your darnedest." I made it through the first two days of practice unscathed and I was actually feeling pretty good on the massive Slopestyle course. I had pulled out of the other events I normally love to compete in, for I was in full survival mode to make it through the weekend with a respectable result in Slopestyle.
The third day it was time to start gettin' busy. On my third run I got busy right to the ground. I got lost in a corked 720, over-rotating and dislocating my middle finger, stretching my shoulder to a full purple limb of useless meat. With some fat fingers, a black and blue shoulder and some other bumps and bruises, it was pretty easy to make the decision to call it. It had gone from putting myself in the best outcome to succeed to putting myself in danger and I can't be upset about that. I'm a stoic and that is stoicism. Plus, the next few weeks were spent with my family in New Zealand and Australia. Life was good :)
This year's Crankworx Festivals are dedicated to Kelly McGarry, a friend, fellow professional and the man who build the Rotorua Slopestyle Course. It is widely regarded as the best course ever built. Kelly was one of the most incredible humans I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and without a doubt the most positive, generous and happiest of people. Kelly passed away a few months ago while riding his bike. He was 34 years old and will be missed by all.