Crossing the finish line of the Canadian Open DH in Skier's Plaza on Sunday (Aug.18), Nanaimo native Stevie Smith was in disbelief as the crowd erupted around him. Being the last racer on course he knew straightaway that he would walk away with his third Canadian Open gold medal in as many years, as well as the $10,000 prize purse. But after a crash he thought making up the time to beat a field of the world's best riders would not be possible.
“There's an awkward corner in the woods, I just went to take a pedal out of it as I normally would, my front wheel slipped as I pedalled and I just steered right into the tree,” said Smith, after the reality of his victory had set in.
“I hit the tree and bounced off the bike, whipped it around in a 360 and hopped back on. I was putting in a wild run in at the beginning, (the crash) just made me frustrated and then I went a little quicker than I should have after that I think.”
Smith managed to edge out Australian Mick Hannah by just 0.09 seconds, posting a time of 2:47.81, New Zealand's Sam Blenkinsop came in third place with a time of 2:50.10.
When asked why he was able to ride so fast and consistently on the Canadian Open course, Smith replied, “It's the terrain I ride all winter at home. I just feel comfortable here, and (with the) home-crowd pressure I have to go fast and make everybody stoked. I'm okay with taking some risks.”
The culmination of Crankworx was one of Smith's finer moments, having taken a victory at the World Cup DH the previous weekend at Mont St-Anne then following up with another winning performance on Canadian soil in Whistler.
“Winning at Mont St-Anne is a dream come true, with how wild the Canadian crowd was there. Taking another win here with Hecklers Rock and all the Canadians ... I love racing in Canada, that's all I can say.”
While he was able to take the Sunday night to celebrate, Smith will only be home on Vancouver Island for three days until he flies out to the World Championships in South Africa.
“I'm trying to take it one race at a time right now. I'm going to World Champs and I'm 100-per-cent focused on that,” he said.
“I feel like I'm stronger and fitter than ever, I'd love to be in that top three and grab a gold medal. I have a bronze and a silver.”
Emmeline Ragot from France was the fastest Pro woman on course with a time of 3:13.01, almost nine seconds ahead of Whistler local Claire Buchar. Floriane Pugin, also from France, was another eight seconds behind Buchar in third place.
“Racing today was pretty cool,” said Ragot, who also won the Garbanzo DH earlier in the week.
“There were a lot of people all over the track and it pushes you to ride faster.”
Many of those spectators were in attendance of Heckle Fest, a course-side area under the Fitzsimmons Chair where a throng shirtless hooligans deride everyone passing on the chairlift and riding the downhill course. The Canadian Open tradition of Heckle Fest is now one of the most photographed events of Crankworx.
Aussies own Dual Slalom Podium
The Australian riders stormed the Dual Slalom course on Friday (Aug. 16) with gold, silver and bronze for the pro men, and a sliver for the pro women. Jill Kintner reclaimed her ownership of the dual slalom after missing last year's event to injury, having an advantage over Australian BMX world champ Caroline Buchanan in the muddy conditions.
“I love racing girls that are of this calibre,” said Kintner.
“It's awesome; it makes me push myself a lot more. I love slalom and I'm really happy with the win. Maybe the mud played in my favour a little bit. I've got a lot of years on the mountain bike and the slalom bike. (Buchanan) is definitely one to watch in the future.”
Graeme Mudd edged out fellow Australian Connor Fearon in the final with Ryan Hunt managing to get few wheel lengths ahead of Frenchman Fab Cousine in the small final to take third.
“I thought Connor may have had the upper hand with a bit more downhill experience. I just put the power down today,” said Mudd.
“I have a bit of BMX background so I think that definitely worked in my favour. I've been in a lot of events this week. I haven't been too bad in the other ones but to get the win in the slalom is awesome.”
Kintner takes fourth Pumptrack Challenge, Loron beats Soderstrom for top spot
Jill Kintner and Mitch Ropelato were under some pressure on Thursday night (Aug. 15), both having won the Pumptrack Challenge for the last three years. But Kintner would be the only one to take home a fourth victory, ousting Australian World BMX champ Caroline Buchanan.
“I knew Caroline would be good. She had her issues the first round and I had a little gate issues in the gate on the second round. It was pretty close there,” said Kintner in a post-race interview.
The biggest upset of the night was Ropelato being eliminated at the semi finals against Martin Soderstrom after making an error out of the gate. Ropelato was unable to find his line coming out of the first berm and almost crashed. With more than one second to make up for his final run, Soderstrom coasted into the finals. It was a close match in the finals for Soderstrom and Frenchman Adrien Loron, the Swede having competed in the Best Trick Showdown earlier in the day and being one of the few competitors on a full-suspension bike. Loron went into the second round with just 0.01 second lead and walked away with the top-podium spot after a clean run.
“It was like a dream for me,” said Loron. “Whistler is the best place to ride with bicycles.”
Smith, Kintner storm Air DH
Stevie Smith had an excellent start to his race schedule at Crankworx after taking home the top spot in the Air DH race down A-Line on Wednesday (Aug. 16) with a time of 4:12.09. Almost 130 racers were registered in the Pro Men category, the biggest turn out in the event's history.
“Going into this year's event there was a little more pressure after winning last year's Air DH,” said Smith.
“I skipped the Garbanzo DH this year to focus on this event and I'm stoked to take the win.”
Mick Hannah from Australia was the runner up at just 1.77 seconds behind, Nick Beer from Switzerland took third.
Jill Kintner was able to hold off Emmeline Ragot by over four seconds for the victory, with Floriane Pugin in third place.
“I’ve come second in a lot of races so I’m stoked to get the win here,” said Kintner.
“This is the freshest I’ve felt coming into this event. Thanks to the rain it was really rough and loose on the course, you can feel the bike sliding. I just didn’t want to get second again.”
The Junior Men's category was a Canadian clean sweep, the top of the podium going to Alexander Geddes (4:21.74), followed by Lee Jackson (4:21.24) and Jack Iles (4:26.54), all whom reside in the Sea to Sky Corridor.
Cruz whips it out
Brazil's Bernado Cruz took his second win at the official Whip-Off worlds on Crabapple Hits on Friday (Aug. 16), showing the most impressive style, whip angle and height. Other notable whips were from Thomas Vanderham, Kurt Sorge and Bas Van Steenbergen.