Fierce flips and a few fumbles at the Freeride Festival
August 1, 2017
Winter Park flooded with visitors this weekend as the 11th annual Colorado Freeride Festival came and went, proving again to be one of Grand County's signature summer events.
The festival took place at Winter Park Resort and officially kicked off Thursday, with guests gathering to watch the Maxxis BMX Stunt Team perform tricks in the village and the Air Downhill competition on Rainmaker Trail.
Jacqueline Thomas won the Women's Pro Air Downhill event with a time of 3:15.03, while Dillon Lemarr won the competition for the pro level men with a time of 2:54.53.
The competition jumped up a notch on Friday with the start of the festival's main event, and crowd favorite, the Maxxis Slopestyle competition. Athletes took off down a single-line course complete with wall rides, massive drops and dirt jumps.
With hundreds watching from the rocks overhead, the qualifications narrowed a group of 26 riders down to 16 to compete for $25,000 in prize money.
The Super Downhill event also took place on Friday, again crowning Jacqueline Thomas and Dillon Lemarr who dominated the downhill category all weekend. The two also took first in the Downhill competition on Sunday.
Saturday promised to be the marquee day of the festival, although the weather had different plans. Visitors gathered around communal campfires in lieu of the Maxxis Slopestyle Finals which were postponed to Sunday, as well as the stunt shows and several family activities.
While raining conditions and muddy festival grounds put a damper on the day, the Intergalactic Pond Crossing pumped life back into an immense crowd gathered five rows deep surrounding the pond.
Participants of all ages took turns attempting to cross the pond on a narrow wooden plank, often losing balance and plummeting into the water. The riders did their best to put on a show for spectators as some crossed in costume, on tandem bikes or unicycle.
The action got back underway Sunday morning under a mostly cloudless Colorado sky for the Maxxis Slopestyle Finals.
Early in the morning the international cadre of elite riders took to the hill to grab a few last minute practice runs before judges started scoring their rides. Professional Czech rider Jakub Venzl was hiking back to the top of the course when he took a few moments to talk about the competition.
"It was pretty rough in the beginning," Venzl said. "I am kind of fighting with the elevation, the same as every year."
Venzl added he was fighting jet lag as well but added he was slowly putting his run together.
"In the finals you have to risk a little bit," he said. "You just have to hope for the best."
Venzl said the Freeride Fest's slopestyle course was a good course but noted the rain from Saturday had slowed him and other riders down.
"It was a little slow this morning, but it has been getting faster and faster as it is drying up."
Venzl finished fourth overall in the Maxxis Slopestyle Finals with a score of 84. The top three finishers in slopestyle were Nicholi Rogatkin with a score of 91, Josh Hult with an 89, and Max Fredriksson with an 87.3.
(Sky-Hi News Reporter Lance Maggart contributed to this report.)