Get ready for some high-flying freeride action because the Australian Slopestyle Tour is confirmed for 2022, with four stops across three states.
Slopestyle and freeride have lagged behind other disciplines of mountain biking in Australia, due to limited riding venues, and even fewer opportunities to compete. Fortunately that is all changing, with more freeride parks and a spirited group of riders working to advance the sport.
What is the Australian Slopestyle Tour?
According to Australian Slope Style Tour co-founder Dave Leslie, the tour was born out of frustration that there was no track for Aussie riders to work their way up towards the professional ranks of MTB freeride.
“Our mission is to create a pathway to Crankworx for an Australian athlete,” says Leslie.
Slopestyle events have been running periodically in Australia as far back as 2002 with the Red Bull Ride in Jindabyne. Over a decade later, the X-Up Festival on NSW’s Central Coast hosted a Silver Level FMB World Tour event, but the discipline went quiet for half a dozen years before it was brought back to life by the Highline MTB Festival.
Only a handfull of Aussie’s have made it to Crankworx. One rider who has is Harriet Burbidge-Smith.
“I think having the AST for 2022 will really push a new generation of Australian slopestyle riders. I think Australia needs a series like this, and the stops and locations they have planned are perfect,” she says. Just like women’s freeride, we need these events in order to progress the scene, and until recently these events haven’t existed in Australia, or even close — so no platform has been available for young riders. I can see this series becoming the stepping stone for Australian riders going to compete in Slopestyle competitions around the world.”
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Check out highlights from the 2021 Highline MTB Festival!
With high hopes of running a full event schedule last year, the Highline MTB festival was supposed to be the launchpad of a three-stop tour, seeing riders compete at Queensland’s Kooralbyn Mountain Bike Park in September, before descending on Green Valleys a month later.
Highline went off without a hitch with riders throwing down in the skies above Mansfield, but unfortunately, Covid reared its ugly head and forced the event team to batten down the hatches.
The good news is that there will be four FMB licensed events slated for 2022, which will allow upcoming Aussie riders to gain experience and world tour points on home soil
The 2022 calendar
The first three Australian Slopestyle Tour stops have been announced, with the fourth set for a new top-secret venue in northern NSW.
The Highline Mountain Bike Fest will once again kick off with the Australian Slopestyle Tour from 24-27 March. The event is expanding into a four-day festival for 2022, and will feature slopestyle, speed ‘n style, dual slalom, a whip-off and DH racing.
Leslie tells Flow the course will be similar to 2021, but a shark-fin hip has been added right after the start drop, and the trail crew has been hard at work to improve the flow of the course, and eliminate the need to scrub speed between features.
A month later, riders will head for Green Valleys, from 7-8 May. This will be a stand-alone slopestyle event, and Leslie tells Flow the course has been built and is currently being tested by riders.
“It’s all about the riders,” he says. “We ask what they want, (and) have them involved in the design. We build to that plan and then have them test and tweak to make sure we get it right and they are happy with the final product. Our process is documented as part of AST’s safety management system and procedures for AusCycling.”
The tour goes on hiatus over winter, before heading north to Queensland for the Kooralbyn Valley Mountain Bike Festival on 17-18 September. This stop will be a full-on MTB fest, with DH racing, a whip-off and a stop of the Scenic Rim Gravity Enduro Series.
The fourth and final stop of the Australian Slopestyle Tour was initially slated to be a Queensland doubleheader with riders staying in the southeast to ride at Boomerang Farm. However, a shake-up in park management saw the series wrap-up, moving to a new private venue just across the Tweed River in northern NSW in November — exact dates are to be confirmed.
This fresh venue is double-secret classified, but Leslie did tell Flow the course is being designed and constructed by the best builders in the region.
The complete list of athletes is still to be finalised, but riders like Mike Ross, Caroline Buchanan, Samuel Fraser, Ben Phillips, Gaelen Slaney and Harriet Burbidge-Smith will all be competing. Leslie tells Flow he is expecting between 15-30 riders, including a full contingent of lady shredders.
The Australian Slopestyle Tour has received backing from AusCycling to support the success of the events and the athletes, which is a significant leap forward for slopestyle mountain bike events in Australia.
For the latest on events, riders lists and more, check out the Australian Slopestyle Tour website.
Photos: Markus Kessler / @markus_kessler_photo