When the Olympics start to wind down at the end of next week, Crankworx Whistler will just be getting underway; and the two events couldn't be more different. One is about tradition, the other about progression; one set of athletes competes for medals, the other for oversized novelty cheques; one set of fans claps politely; the others rip off their T-shirts, wrap them around their heads and party in the hot sun at Heckler's Rock; one event is rebroadcast on television; the other is live in our own backyard; one is for elite athletes that qualify at global level competitions; and one is mostly open to anybody with a bike.
The one thing they have in common, however, is that they both feature the best in the world; in the case of the Olympics, that means runners, swimmers, strength and endurance athletes and more; at Crankworx Whistler that means the top freeride mountain bike athletes on the planet.
Crankworx Whistler gets underway on Aug. 10 and runs through Aug. 19. Over the 10-day festival are a dozen different events, all but two of which are open to the general public — and many of which are expected to sell out.
The number of events is up over last year, as is the amount of prize money up for grabs — $175,000 in cash and prizes, or more than twice the total prize purse from five years ago. Over $47,000 is up for grabs in the invite-only Red Bull Joyride slopestyle competition alone, but there is a lot of money on the table for downhillers as well. The top male in the Canadian Open DH will win $10,000, while the top female will take $5,000, making it the biggest prize purses in the world for a downhill race.
Darren Kinnaird, the event director for Crankworx, said that the prize money is a reflection of strong sponsorship, which itself is a reflection of the size and popularity of the event.
"I think it's the overall package that Crankworx can deliver for sponsors — and not just the onsite activation and the chance to interact with 100,000 people in 10 days, but also the online reach that Crankworx has been able to deliver," said Kinnaird.
For example, Crankworx and Jeep — which sponsored the Air Downhill in 2011 — have worked together on the Canadian Open Downhill with the goal of making it one of the premier downhill events in North America. Jeep is responsible for the boost in prize money, as well as the production values of the event.
"For us, (production values) are the single most important thing we invest in," said Kinnaird. "It's about the onsite experience and taking the event global, letting people tune in from around the world. Crankworx is a leader in mountain biking from the online production perspective. This year we have eight days of live webcasts and more than 20 hours of event coverage.
"We're really expanding coverage for the Canadian Open in particular. We have plans for cameras from basically Heckler's Rock. After that it ducks back into the trees and it's kind of dark and twisty, but when the riders come out of the trees we'll be able to link back into the person's run, and we have two cable cams following across the three jumps, basically road gaps. From there, they'll get back into the top of the Boneyard where we'll have a manned camera, and then another cable cam will pick up the riders all the way to the finish line. Jeep has invested in that production, which means the highest production values we've ever had for a downhill race in Whistler.
"It's always been a goal to get more cameras up the hill. One of the biggest requests we got after last year was 'we want to see Heckler's Rock.' People around the world want to watch this."
The field of pro athletes for the speed events is still being confirmed, but for now most of the top downhill athletes from the World Cup are confirmed. As for the invite-only Red Bull Joyride slopestyle and Teva Best Trick competition, the field also includes all the top riders — including Whistler rider and 2011 Crankworx champion Brandon Semenuk.
"This is the biggest event of the year, and all the top riders are going to be here," said Kinnaird.
The slopestyle course is pretty much complete this year, with a more side-to-side layout to take some braking out of the contest and allow riders to better control speeds coming into features. Some of the highlights of the course include an optional 60-foot gap over the satellite dish features that Kinnaird says "maybe five or six guys in the world will be able to hit," and the Kokanee Cabin. This time riders will have two options — instead of riding through the cabin they can launch from the roof or off the porch.
Like the Canadian Open DH, the spectator and online viewing component was kicked up a notch. The judge's tower has been relocated to open up the course and there will be four big television screens around the course in addition to the big screen at the bottom. You'll be able to see the screens from everywhere, says Kinnaird.
The lineup of events is similar to previous years with a few additions, including an expanded enduro race with four distinct sections, a new Dual Speed and Style competition and the unOfficial Whip Off World Championship.
Kinnaird says the lineup of events is inspired by the riders themselves: "We want to stay on the cutting edge of course, but we really work closely with, and talk to, the athletes, and ask them, 'what do you want to see, what do you want to do?' An event like the Dual Speed and Style that Avid is sponsoring is a direct result of that. We did it at (Crankworx) Les 2 Alpes and it was a big hit. Some of the athletes were slow jumping on board, but after seeing it, everyone is excited to take part in it."
As well, Crankworx has worked to complete the festival by adding live music and taking events out to the public. For example, the Bud Light Crankworx Concert Series takes place on Aug. 10 and 11 with four bands at Whistler Olympic Plaza. The GoPro Dirt Diaries take place on Aug. 14 with free viewing at Whistler Olympic Plaza (although you can buy ticketed seats in the VIP area for $20). As well, the Deep Summer Photo Challenge will take place at the Plaza on Aug. 15 with ticketed seats and free viewing for everyone else.
"For us it was an opportunity to take a sold out event with 1,100 people outside to a venue where we can show it to 5,000 or 6,000 people," said Kinnaird.
"Nobody who takes that week off work is going to be disappointed. If you're a fan of biking, this is it."
May 23, 2013, 5:02 AM
Locals frustrated by damage to village; police log 17 cases of mischief over one night More...
May 23, 2013, 5:01 AM
Task handed to EPI Committee for attention More...
May 23, 2013, 5:00 AM
Work to begin this summer in an effort to update hall, improve customer service More...