The Crankworx Whistler freeride mountain bike festival got off to a huge start this year with thousands of spectators lining the course for the Opening Fat Tire Crit and another big crowd for Saturday's Dual Speed & Style event, despite the decision to run it ahead of schedule to get ahead of a lightning warning. Sunday's Canadian Open Enduro race was a tough one for spectators to watch, but hundreds of locals made the effort to support the event by hiking up the various courses around the valley, and cheering on the finishers at the base of Whistler.
And that was only the beginning with 14 events packed into the festival's 10-day calendar. Some of the biggest events, including the Red Bull Joyride slopestyle, are still to come.
Squamish riders on podium in Fat Tire Crit
The third annual Fat Tire Criterium kicked off the10th edition of Crankworx Whistler with mountain bikers on slick tires racing an 800-metre course around Whistler Olympic Plaza.
Defending champion Carl Decker was the fastest male competitor, while Jean Ann Berkenpas pulled out a sprint finish win in the women's event.
The races were short at just 20 minutes in length featuring a pack of riders that was reduced over the course of the event by a motorbike riding sweep who randomly pulled competitors off the back of the pack. Competitors were required to ride mountain bikes with 26, 27.5 or 29-inch wheels. Each lap took between 45 and 50 seconds to ride. The loop consisted mostly of hard surface, although there was a short crushed gravel section to justify the mountain bike requirement.
Leah Guloien of Port Moody stayed well ahead of the sweep through the women's race and looked like she could win, but Jean Ann Berkenpas of Maple Ridge found extra fuel in the final seconds and beat her on the sprint.
"I tried to get away early on but there were enough strong girls to chase me," Berkenpas said after the race. "When Leah made a breakaway I worked to stay with her and managed to sprint away from her at the very end."
Brandi Heisterman of Squamish placed third.
Decker, from Oregon, came off the course and said he found it a bit scary in places.
"It was so tight between riders," said Decker, the defending champion. "It was about maintaining focus and not making errors. Letting your tires drift on pavement is pretty scary."
The racer from Bend finished ahead of Spencer Paxson of Seattle. Squamish's Greg Day finished in third place.
The six podium finishers shared in $4,500 in prize money.
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