The Freeride Mountain Bike World Tour rolled into (well, actually flew above) Mansfield, Victoria, to kick off its 2021 season at the Highline Mountain Bike Festival.
As one of Australia’s only slopestyle events, the Highline MTB Fest packages a bronze level FMB event, a whip-off, and a Gravity Downhill, all into an action-packed weekend.
Airs, crashes, dust, beers and good times were had at the Highline MTB Fest in Mansfield, Victoria. Check out the highlights below.
The slopestyle course was purpose-built for the FMB event and saw 3,000-tonnes of dirt sculpted into a five feature course, including a north shore style wooden drop, whale tail step down, cannon log, and two gap jumps.
On Friday, the practice and qualifying session saw riders dialling the competition runs and getting comfortable on the newly built course; however, the wind had other ideas with unpredictable gusts blowing competitors off-line during the bout. Out of the 15-rider field, only eight would advance to finals the following day.
After slopestyle qualifying, it was time for the Whip-off, where riders did their damndest to achieve that perfect right angle. With shenanigans galore, and a few tuck no handers and nac-nacs thrown in to wow the crowd, in the end, it was youngster Rye Carlyon who won over the judges with his steezy sideways airs.
On Saturday, the wind dropped off, and the riders went big; with everything from front flip no handers, 360-tail whips and superman seat grabs on show; the judges did not have an easy job.
It was Melbourne’s Ben Phillips who went inverted over every feature that stood on the podium’s top step, edging out local favourite and defending champion Gaelan Slaney in second and Queanbeyan, NSW’s Mike Ross, who rounded out the podium.
Don’t forget about the downhill
While the slopestyle was the star of the show, the gravity event attracted a field of 300 riders to race against the clock, with over half the field being U15 and U17 shredders. The conditions were extraordinarily dry and loose through course inspection and practice, leaving rocks, roots, and other trail furniture shrouded under a variable layer of dust that caught quite a few riders off guard.
That all changed overnight when heavy rain blanketed the course and continued throughout the race day. The top section of the 3km course is covered in a thick pine forest offering some moisture protection, but the open lower slopes were not so lucky.
Elise Empey took the Elite Women’s class, completing the course at 4:00.50 with a commanding 21-second time gap over second place. On the men’s podium, Harrison Tailby descended into the top spot with a time of 3:10.11, posting the fastest time over the first two splits opening up a five-second lead which proved to be enough to hold off the competition.
With the success of the 2021 event, the Highline Mountain Bike Festival will be back in Mansfield next March and will be adding dual slalom to the agenda.
For more info, head over the Highline MTB Festival website.
Photography – Amelia Howler – @ameliahowler and Markus Kessler – @markus_kessler_photography
Video and coverage – Campbell James – @Campbell.jam