By Seb Kemp
Photos by Anthony Smith
Brandon Semenuk is a winning machine. He has won the Freeride Mountain Bike World Tour (FMB) overall title for the past two years in a row, and both times done so in a very convincing manner. However, in 2013 Brandon will be trimming some of the time he spends at such events.
Bike tracked down Semenuk (currently digging deep in the forests of BC for an upcoming video project) to find out why he has had a change of focus and what is in store instead.
Bike: The rumor we have heard is that you are only going to be present at two FMB rounds this year?
Semenuk: I'm going to do four or five events, which is about half of what I usually do.
Semenuk: Just to do something new. I've done so many events for the last six years or so and I just want to switch it up to do some filming and things like that. Contests end up taking up my entire year, so usually I'm not having fun by the end of the season.
Bike: Your whole career has been based around events, contests and title wins, so are you now having to restructure how you work?
Semenuk: Yeah kinda. I've had a lot of good results, but I don't have a lot of video segments and that kind of thing to show for it. I like that kind of stuff so changing things up gives me an opportunity to do those things now.
Bike: What kind of stuff?
Semenuk: There will be a season two of Life Behind Bars and there will also be a larger film project coming out in 2014.
Bike: OK, so is that a Freeride Entertainment movie?
Semenuk: Yeah, Red Bull and Freeride entertainment.
Bike: Looking forward to it. Was any of your decision based on how the FMB structures events for the riders?
Semenuk: Well, I don't know. Not to put the FMB down, but I don't like how they have things structured. It's too much, there's too much going on. The FMB is flooded with a bunch of events that shouldn't be in the calendar. To do well at the overall title you have to do so many events that you are basically risking hurting yourself or wasting a lot of your year on just riding in events. For the athletes that have an opportunity to do other stuff it makes it really hard and makes for a very long year.
I think there should be something more like the Dew Tour where there are six events and riders hit every one of them and you get one throwaway result. There shouldn't be thirty events and you can do as many as you want so you get as many chances to collect points as you are able to travel for.
There needs to be a set number events so riders don't cherry pick events, going to ones where none of the good guys are entering.
Bike: We have seen some up-and-coming riders use this format to their advantage, especially in Europe where there are so many events, especially early on in the year. That might work to the advantage of some lesser-known riders, but also to the disadvantage of others.
Semenuk: Yeah, especially in Europe where there are twenty-something events and in North America there are ten or so. I think that's pretty unfair, especially for the up-and-coming riders who can't afford to travel so much. For us, the top guys, we can travel to Europe more, but for the kids that don't have much funding or chance to get out there it makes it hard. The North American kids have such a hard time compared to the Euro kids.
Bike: What about in terms of earnings? If you win certain FMB events the prize money is very good, I don't know if some of your contracts are based on titles and victories, but how does your decision to move things around change those things?
Semenuk: Well obviously, I'll lose out on some contest earnings, but I don't really care about the money so much. I've told all my sponsors about not doing so many rounds of the FMB and they were completely supportive of that decision. In fact, they are more than happy with what I have planned. If I do well in the events that I always try to do well at and then miss some others, then it's not a huge difference anyway.
Bike: There must be a bunch of riders happy to hear you aren't going for the overall FMB title now.
Semenuk: I guess so. I haven't really told anyone…I don't know if anyone really knows yet.