By Vernon Felton
Eighteen of the world's most talented riders will soon compete for their share of the $45,000 in prize money and the limelight that comes part and parcel with winning the Red Bull Joyride, arguably the biggest single contest of its kind. How do you even categorize Red Bull Joyride? Slopestyle? Freeride? Big-Ass Dirt Jump? Who cares? All you need to know is that it's jaw-dropping, mind-bending fare that makes this past weekend's Olympic mountain biking competition look like some kind of senior citizen, off-road Parcheesi match.
So, who's going to stand atop the Red Bull Joyride podium next Saturday (the 18th) when all's said and done? It's impossible to say. Sure, you could argue that Brandon Semenuk is going to repeat last year's victory—he's currently leading the FMB World Tour and is clearly on a tear—but absolutely anything can happen in an event like this, in which landing something slightly wrong can bring your day in the sun to a rag-dolling finish.
This much is clear, the top four guys on the 2012 FMB World Tour are part of the 10-rider strong group of pre-qualified riders for Joyride 2012 and are all guys to keep an eye on. The video below does a nice job of summing up the exploits of the top three; Semenuk, Martin Soderstrom and Sam Pilgrim (Belgian rider, Thomas Genon isn't shown in the clip, but currently sits in that fourth spot in the overall FMB rankings).
THE DARK HORSES
And then there are dark horses like Anthony Messere who showed up last year as an alternate and still managed to nab third place at the 2012 Red Bull Joyride despite being just 15 years old. Crazy shit happens, as clearly evidenced by the clip below…
GULEVICH, MCCAUL, WATTS, ZINK… NO SHORTAGE OF GREATS
Really, at this level of competition any one of the 18 riders could roll in and stomp their way to the top of the heap. The invite list not only pulls the top riders from the FMB World Tour, but the top six riders from last year’s Red Bull Joyride competition. In short, the field is going to be stacked with big-name riders, which really makes any kind of prediction about who’ll be standing atop the podium an exercise in folly. So there you have it. Our firm declaration that, er, anything, anything at all, could happen… which is also why you should tune in and see what happens.