Two-time-defending Freestyle Mountain Bike World Tour champion Brandon Semenuk has been laying low in 2013, sitting out all of the lower-tier events on the international circuit in favor of freeriding back home in Whistler, British Columbia, and filming for his web series "Life Behind Bars." If you're comparing the invite list for the X Games debut of Mountain Bike Slopestyle in Munich to the current FMB World Tour top-10 rankings and noticing he doesn't even merit a mention, don't count him out just yet.
"I think my different approach to this season is actually going to be an advantage, because I'm just picking out the biggest contests I want to do instead of riding in a whole bunch of smaller events I'm not really stoked on," Semenuk said. "The more events you do the better chance you have in that overall ranking, but I decided it was more important to ride as much as possible and come out with some new tricks up my sleeve for the Diamond events like X Games, Crankworx and the Red Bull Rampage, where the courses are much better and the competition is more intense."
Semenuk brings classic BMX style to his mountain biking -- think tailwhips and flairs -- and brings street and terrain park-inspired moves to the trails. His peers regularly give him props for being at the forefront of progression in his sport and nearly every one of his competitors on the X Games invite list had one name on their lips when asked about the man to beat heading into Munich: Brandon Semenuk. Some, like Cam McCaul, have even altered their 2013 schedules to train with him at his backyard facility in British Columbia.
"His approach is super professional and he knows what he needs to do in terms of the equipment and the training ground and everything it takes to be the best," said McCaul. "He just analyzes things obsessively to the point that it comes down to making it happen on the course. And he just goes for it. He doesn't care what happens to him 'cause it is the biggest thing in his life."
Semenuk topped the podium six times in 2012, taking first place and best trick honors at the Crankworx iXS Slopestyle event in Les Deux Alpes, France, and winning both the Shimano Slopestyle event at the Colorado Freeride Festival in Winter Park and the Bearclaw Invitational at Mount Washington in Canada, two of his personal favorite events. Not too shabby for a rider who says he doesn't love contests and would rather be riding out in his backyard terrain park with his buddies or exploring the endless system of trails within miles of his house.
Semenuk, 22, got an early start in the sport, getting into cross-country mountain bike racing when he was just 6 years old. He has been freeriding competitively since he was a teen. And while he now has a "been there, done that" attitude about getting to all the events it might take to get the three-peat, Semenuk says he has no regrets about the path he took to get where he is. He has put plenty of that prize money and sponsor cash to good purpose, after all, building the private training facility of his dreams on a 5-acre property complete with trails, jumps, and slopestyle features to rival some of the biggest contests. His compound also features an airbag and foam pit for working on some new surprises in secret.
Semenuk may have left a lot of events off his calendar to free up his schedule this year, but he says there's one contest he wouldn't miss for anything.
"X Games is going to be one of the biggest highlights of the year and maybe the decade," he said. "It's definitely an insane opportunity and everyone's super stoked. I think what I'm most looking forward to is just experiencing the whole culture of X Games and getting to see some of the other sports in person, because I've been watching it on TV ever since I was a little kid. It's going to be rad just to be a part of all that."