Twenty-seven-year-old freestyle mountain biker Cam Zink has more than a few big moments in his pro career: becoming Freeride Mountain Biking World Tour Champion in 2010, scoring a namesake bike that any kid anywhere can buy at Wal-Mart and surviving a ridiculous 80-foot fall that he captured on his helmet cam last year. But the current number-57 ranked rider from Sparks, Nev., says capturing the first-ever X Games medal in Mountain Bike Slopestyle would be a colossal accomplishment, made all the sweeter by the long, long wait just to get a shot at it. Zink dialed up XGames.com in between practices to talk about how ready the sport is for the spotlight when X Games takes over Munich this week.
Every slopestlye rider I know is elated that it's finally happened. We've all wanted it to be in X Games for years, and we knew we had a cool sport that we all helped create. It's kind of an instant legitimization for the rest of the world and the general public. X Games brought skateboarding and BMX to the next level, and now mountain biking is part of that, and it's pretty cool.
Every year there's more new kids competing in slopestyle, a new crop of talent. The best keep getting better and they just keep coming. There are so many people that can qualify nowadays. Whereas before, there were only a couple guys that were guaranteed to get in [to any given competition]. Now, there are still the top guys, but there are just so many more people that qualify. And the crowds are getting more knowledgeable -- there are more people who don't even ride mountain bikes who know what slopestyle is. Every year it's progressing.
Freestyle mountain biking takes a little bit of the BMX tricks, on a course that is somewhat like in snowboarding, with some motocross influences. It just takes something from everything and mixes it, on a mountain bike.
Slopestyle is downhill and in BMX you traditionally do long rows and street jumps. In mountain biking you mix in the drops and the logs, like bigger step-downs and the MegaRamp is huge, obviously. But other than that, it's generally a lot bigger than BMX riding. That's the idea of dirt jumping—you start with A and B on a course, but rather than street riding and stuff like that, it mixes in all the other elements into one flowing course from top to bottom. It's all gravity fed. If the course is built well you don't really have to brake or pedal for it.
Slopestyle is freestyle side of mountain biking. There used to be just regular dirt jump contests, and then the big mountain contests like Red Bull Rampage, which is more like big mountain skiing and whatnot. But slopestyle is the best of all the worlds mixed in together. It's just perfect for putting at the bottom of a ski run so it's accessible for people. You can kind of put them anywhere there's a slope so that's part of the appeal.
Fans respond when we are doing the biggest tricks that any of us know. Usually the biggest you've ever done a trick was on a course, because you normally don't ride jumps that big at home, or you don't have the same set ups.
I've been riding the foam pit at Woodward to get ready and I'm actually in Santa Cruz right now riding Cam McCaul's pool jump. I've been riding all the dirt jumps at my house. I'm even doing a little bit of downhill riding, like on some of the downhill racetracks around here, and dirt jumping.
I'm not letting any cats out of the bag, but I've got some new tricks for the X Games.
I'm probably known for big 360 rough drops. I'm usually the first one to do it. When we're jumping on to a course and there's a big drop, I'll probably be the first one to spin it. There's other people that'll be spinning a drop [in Munich], but it's just kind of my forte.
We know the course builders for the X Games in Munich. They built a really good contest course a couple weeks ago in Germany [for the Red Bull Berg Line] and they know what they're doing. Also, Darren Berrecloth helped with the design for the X Games course, so we know that we have people that know what they're doing. We've seen the layout and I think it's one of the best courses ever made. It maybe isn't the biggest slope, but I think it should flow really well and be a proper representation, without having to be in the mountains.
Bigger jumps are more fun. They're usually safer too, especially if you're going to throw the bigger tricks, you've got more time. Everything's not rushed, and there's a bigger landing, even though you're going higher off of it, or you're going longer into it. Bigger landings are safer, it looks better, it's more fun and it's a better representation. It's all we've been asking for, and over the last couple years they've finally started to make 40, 50, 60-foot jumps and put them on the courses. In Munich we'll get it—there's a 60-foot jump at the bottom and a 30-foot drop at the top. That's what we really wanted.
Mountain biking just has the cool factor [in Europe]. That's actually what's gonna help us. Skateboarding and BMX are cool here because the X Games are on TV and there's Street League. In the States, mountain biking isn't viewed as slopestyle, it's viewed as people riding a mountain bike cross country and whatnot. So this kind of stuff just gets it to people in the proper way. Mountain biking has always been cool in Germany.
Carmen R. Thompson is a senior writer for ESPN Magazine and a regular contributor to XGames.com.