On Wednesday, April 13th, the final stop of the 2022 NST, the Yeti Natural Selection Alaska, airs on Naturalselectiontour.com. Eight men and four women were at this stop, and in addition to vying for the win in AK, they are all in the running for the overall Tour title. in 2021, the Tour adapted to COVID travel restrictions with three self-standing events, and so this year is the first that NST is able to run as envisioned, with multiple events in which the riders collect points in the hunt for the overall Tour championship.
From Jackson to Baldface to Alaska, here is how it breaks down, directly from NST:
“A Triple Crown-style format determines the overall 2022 Natural Selection Tour Champion. In this format, each stop of the Tour has equal weighting and a stand-alone winner. The points will be tallied by finish at each stop: first place = 1 point; second place = 2 points; third place = 3 points; fourth place = 4 points, etc. The rider with the lowest score at the conclusion of the three stops will be the overall Natural Selection Tour Champion.
If a competitor places third in Jackson, first in British Columbia, and fifth in Alaska, that rider’s final combined score would be nine (3+1+5). If there is a tie following stop three, the Championship tie-breaker is based on which rider has the best finish at the Alaska finale.”
Going into the final stop of the Tour, here are the standings.
On the women’s side, Elena Hight has a fairly comfortable lead going into Alaska. By winning in Jackson and earning second place at Baldface, Elena has accumulated only 3 points in total. The most she could add in Alaska is 4, so even if she finished in last place in AK, she would still be able to tie for first place overall if either of the tied-for-second-place-standings in the Tour, Marion Hearty or Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, took the win in Alaska. If a tie occurs in that scenario, then the tiebreaker is the AK result, which would potentially launch Marion or Zoi into the overall champion position. If Hana wins in AK, there is no tiebreaker and still is potential for Elena to take the overall title. So, the bottom line on the women’s side is that Alaska is anyone’s game and while Elena is in a good position to emerge as Tour Champion, it’s still up in the air–which is what we’re steadily learning watching every NST event unfold: nothing is certain and it’s anyone’s day on any day.
On the men’s side, there is even more math to think about. Mikkel Bang, the 2021 Tour Champion, is in first place in the standings leading up to AK, though only by two points and with Kotsenburg and Craven hot on his heels. But there are eight point positions to be disseminated among the competitors, so there are plenty of possibilities of what could go down and who will emerge Tour Champion. What it’s going to initially come down to, is who advances from men’s quarterfinals to semi-finals and who is eliminated, adding 5, 6, 7, or 8 points to their Tour total, but as it stands, Mikkel, Safe, Craven, Elston, Torstein, and Travis are all in contention for the overall title.
Why does Mark McMorris have so many points? He received the maximum number (nine) for taking a bye at Jackson and came in eighth place at Baldface, which amped up his overall point total. Zoi also took the maximum points for a bye at Jackson, but the total of five is less consequential when it comes to the overall women’s Tour standings with few positions in the ranking.