After nine years as the undisputed epicentre of progression in mountain biking, one may wonder what’s left for Crankworx Whistler to bring to the table year after year.
The annual mountain biking festival, which opens in the resort Friday (Aug. 9) for the 10th time, will once again be pushing the boundaries of the sport while making enhancements to Crankworx staples and welcoming new or improved events to the jam-packed, 10-day schedule.
The Crankworx name itself has become synonymous with excellence across all disciplines of mountain biking in less than a decade and the 2013 edition of the festival is set to continue that legacy.
“It has in many ways taken on a life of its own and Crankworx is very much a globally-recognized brand now,” said general manager Darren Kinnaird. “Crankworx has sort of defined the sport, especially on the slopestyle side of things. This is where it was born, this is where that started and it was sort of the initial spark for Crankworx, along with some of the racing we were doing in other events.”
While the slopestyle course that will be featured during Red Bull Joyride on Aug. 17 will once again set the gold standard for freestyle riding before a crowd of thousands in Skiers Plaza, Crankworx will be capitalizing on the growing trend of enduro racing on the festival’s first weekend in a way never before seen in Whistler.
The SRAM Canadian Open Enduro presented by Specialized will be the fifth of seven stops on the Enduro World Series, which is in the middle of its inaugural season and has already held races in France, Italy and the United States. Kinnaird, who sits on the board of the newly-created Enduro Mountain Bike Association administering the series, said athlete demand inspired the creation of the tour and the response has been phenomenal.
“People were begging for a world tour of this, where they can go and compete, get global exposure and points. The reception and the coverage so far this year has been amazing,” he said. “It’s made (Crankworx organizers) step up our game on the enduro side of things.”
Mixing elements of downhill and cross-country racing, enduro races are held over short stages in a single day and have exploded in popularity. The Canadian Open Enduro will take place Sunday (Aug. 11), using the Top of the World trail from the peak of Whistler Mountain for the final stage.
“We have a much better understanding of how they’re running the events over in Europe and we’ve expanded,” said Kinnaird. “The field has doubled — the event sold out in 24 hours. The most we’d ever had in the enduro before was about 175 last year. We have close to 350 this year. It’s a super popular event and I’d say the biggest enhancement to the festival this year is that enduro on the Sunday.”
New for this year, Crankworx will be the site of Canada Cup finals in both downhill and cross-country, as Wednesday’s (Aug. 14) Canadian Open XC will take place on the Lost Lake trails and the Canadian Open DH that wraps up the festival on Aug. 18 will also act as a finale for the national series. Kinnaird said the Canada Cup designations came about in partnership with Cycling Canada as Crankworx looks to increase the national body’s presence in Whistler, since the resort has the facilities, trails and infrastructure to support it.
“What better way to (do that through) Crankworx but by having a brand-new cross-country event out at Lost Lake and by having them get involved in our biggest event in the Canadian Open downhill?” said Kinnaird.
Meanwhile, Crankworx continues to become more and more spectator-friendly, both for those here in the resort and others watching live streams from at home. Whistler Olympic Plaza will again be the site of crowd-pleasing events like Friday’s Fat Tire Crit and next Thursday’s (Aug. 15) Ultimate Pump Track Challenge presented by RockShox, while Crankworx’s online presence will expand further this year with the use of Google Hangouts. Kinnaird said the technology will be used to deliver post-event coverage in a format similar to Hockey Night in Canada’s After Hours segment.
Steve Smith, who stole the show in 2012 by winning the downhill Triple Crown, will get his first chance to defend his titles from last year on Tuesday (Aug. 13) during the Garbanzo DH. For a full schedule of events and competition details, visit www.crankworx.com.
While Crankworx is sure to delight mountain bike fans as it celebrates turning 10, Kinnaird is hopeful that this year’s festival continues to encourage more people to simply get out there and ride.
“If people are excited about mountain biking and it inspires people to get on their bikes, that to me would be the true sign of success,” he said.