In the growing world of freeride mountain biking, Whistler has become the official laboratory where new riding styles, technologies and events are researched and tested on enthusiastic riders.
In the summer of 2003, Whistler hosted the first ever mountain bike slopestyle event, where riders were judged on their ability to ride a course of obstacles. With a huge crowd turning out to watch, that event quickly became the signature event of the first Crankworx mountain bike festival in 2004, along with several other events that have evolved out of previous bike festivals.
The final result is a lineup of events for this years Crankworx, Aug. 3-7, designed to show the evolution of the sport.
"We are always looking at how to make the events even bigger and better than before, because the riders here are the best in the world," said Eric Fremont, who is organizing the event with the Whistler Events Bureau (Whistler-Blackcomb, Tourism Whistler and the Resort Municipality of Whistler). "The events are ready to go, all the events surrounding Crankworx are moving along. Its going to be good."
So far registration is strong with over 50 people signed up more than a week in advance.
"About 90 per cent of mountain bike registration in Whistler comes within a week of the event, so were actually doing really well. The main events, like the Air Downhill and Garbanzo Enduro are capped at around 175 competitors anyway, and last year the Air Downhill sold out and the other events came pretty close," said Fremont.
Organizers also expect participants to take part in two or more events, and believe many riders will participate in all three competitions. The top riders after the festivals will be named the King and Queen of the mountain.
Crankworx returns with some new additions, some changes to existing events, and a beefed up entertainment component on festival nights.
The backbone of Crankworx is a series of five competitions with over $20,000 in prize money, three of which are open to the general public. The cost of registration is between $45 and $55, depending on your category, not including insurance, and there will be a $10 surcharge for event day sign-up. There will also be a $10 discount for riders that sign up for all three events.
You can register online at www.crankworx.com , or at Whistler-Blackcomb Guest Relations.
Jim Beam Air Downhill
Crankworx competition gets underway on Thursday, Aug. 4 with the Jim Beam Air Downhill from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The Air Downhill, in its fifth year, is a rip down the Whistler Mountain Bike Parks famed A-Line run. A-Line features 100 man-made jumps and berms, as well as a couple of challenging rock drops, and is easily the most ridden trail in North America.
The Air Downhill is open to the public with both pro and amateur categories and $2,100 in prize money. The course will be open for a training session from noon to 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
Because the event is limited to 175 competitors, advance registration is recommended.
Nissan Biker Cross
Friday, Aug. 5 is the Nissan Biker Cross, another event that is in its fifth year.
As always this event is expected to attract the top World Cup 4X riders, as well as the top B.C. Cup challengers and local talent. The $5,600 prize purse is a strong draw, as is the size of the crowd and all the media attention that Crankworx receives. It also doesnt hurt that the course itself has been described as perfect, with lots of opportunities for passing from top to bottom.
Some of the riders expected include Brian Lopes, Cedric Gracia, Eric Carter, Michal Brokop, Sabrina Jonnier, Jill Kinter, and Claire Buchar.
"We wont really know whos racing until the day of the event, but weve been told to expect a lot of the same World Cup riders from past years," said Fremont.
The course at the base of Whistler Mountain is spectator friendly, and will have even bigger features than last year. Freeride legend Richie Schley once again had a hand in the design.
The time trials take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and the main competition starts at 6 p.m. with a maximum of 150 athletes in different categories.
This event is open to the public, but early registration is recommended because of the limited number of entries. There will be training on Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Pro Invitational Slopestyle
Saturday is all about the Full Throttle Pro Invitational Slopestyle event, which will take place in the Boneyard at the base of Whistler Mountain from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
In two short years the slopestyle has emerged as the signature event of the festival, with more than 5,000 fans lining the competition site and hundreds of videographers and photographers taking refuge on course.
In the first year B.C.s own Darren Berrecloth took the title with a huge 360 followed by a massive superman seat-grab, punctuated with a sideways scissor kick. Last year top prize went to Nevadas Paul Basagoitia with backflip over the gap jumps, a tailwhip over the quarterpipe, a backflip onto the scaffolding and a tailwhip off the scaffolding onto the final transition.
With organizers upping the stakes each year by adding new stunts last year it was a huge step-up jump to a teeter-totter the athletes should have a lot to work with.
"Slopestyle is our main event, its the one that attracts all the top guys and the biggest crowd," said Fremont. "There will be some of the same stunts weve had in previous years, some bigger gap jumps and the wall ride and things like that, but well be adding a few new things as well."
The slopestyle is by invitation only, although a few of the spots in the finals are reserved for the top riders from a qualifying event on Friday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Basagoitia was one of the riders who made it through the selection last year, so spectators are encouraged to come out for both events.
Invited riders, as of press time:
1. Paul Basagoitia, Nevada
2. Timo Pritzel, Germany
3. Kyle Strait, California
4. Cameron Zink, Nevada
5. Cameron McCaul, California
6. Richie Schley, Whistler
7. Kirt Voreis, Oregon
8. Cedric Gracia, Andorra
9. Darren Berrecloth, Qualicum Beach
10. Thomas Vanderham, North Vancouver
11. Wade Wimmons, North Vancouver
12. Robbie Bourdon, Nelson
13. John Cowan, California
14. Aaron Chase, New Jersey
15. Carlin Dunne, California
16. Randy Spangler, California
17. David Watson, North Vancouver
18. Geoff Gulevich, Vancouver
1. Alex Prochazka, Whistler
2. Andrew Mitchell, North Vancouver
3. Carlo Dieckmann, Germany
4. Chris Van Dine
5. Dan Csokonay, Calgary
6. Dave Smutok, Vermont
7. Dylan Tremblay
8. Eric Porter, New Jersey
9. Evan Holmgren, North Vancouver
10. George Ryan
11. Greg Watts, California
12. Jamie Goldman, California
13. Jared Gatzka, Kamloops
14. Jeff Lenosky, New Jersey
15. Jordi Lunn
16. Joscha Forstreuter, Germany
17. Kenny Smith, Whistler
18. Kyle Ebbett, Vermont
19. Matt Brooks, Kamloops
20. Matt Hunter, Kamloops
21. Mike Kinrade, Nelson
22. Niels Windfeldt, Norway
23. Richard Gasperotti, Czech Republic
24. Ryder Kasprick
25. Trond Hanson, Norway
26. Wayne Goss, Smithers.
The last few names will be confirmed in the week prior to the competition.
The Garbanzo Enduro downhill takes place on Sunday from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
This is one of the longest downhill races in North America, starting at the top of Garbanzo Chair and descending 3,400 vertical feet to the village. The course includes Upper Freight Train, No Joke, Side Track, Golden Triangle, World Cup Single Track, Ho Chi Min and the GLC Drops. The fastest times are expected to be in the neighbourhood of 15 minutes.
This event is open to the public, and there will be a training session on Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Kona Jump Jam
The last event on the roster in the Kona Jump Jam, which takes place on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the new Kona Jump Farm outside of Olympic Station. This event is also an invitational, and will likely include many of the same athletes as the Slopestyle.
"The Jump Jam is almost what I would call a demonstration event," explained Fremont. "If its successful and works really well well probably step it up next year and make it a bigger part of Crankworx, and run it over a couple of days."
If the event is successful, organizers will also have to decide whether to bring it to the base of the mountain, or to create a system to get people up to the jump site at Olympic Station.
Although it is a demonstration event, there is still $3,000 in prize money up for grabs.
Theres more to Crankworx than competitions. For five days Whistler will also showcase mountain bike and mountain culture with demonstrations, fun rides and clinics, and live performances.
Through the entire festival the top mountain bike manufacturers will host an expo to showcase their latest products and innovations, with many offering demonstrations to riders.
The Dangerous Dan Flow Show will also return to the village, with team riders showing off their North Shore skills on a series of expert stunts.
Another village attraction is a mountain bike trials riding competition called Trialsworx, hosted by the Baia Brothers Trials Team. The contest has Novice/Sport, Kids and Expert/Elite categories, and will take place on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Mountain Square with riders from around Canada and the U.S. The Baia Brothers will also put on demonstrations throughout the festival.
For people who would rather ride than watch, the Ride With The Stars program will return to Crankworx this year, with pro riders giving guided tours to all levels of cyclists. Times, riders and meeting places are still to be announced.
WORCAs weekly Loonie Race takes place on Thursday, meeting at the base of Whistler at 5:30 p.m. Youll need to be a WORCA member to take part in this cross-country race for insurance reasons, but members can participate in Loonie Races, Phat Wednesday downhill races, events like the West Side Wheel Up and Samurai of Singletrack, and also receive substantial discounts for the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. Registration is available on-site, or in advance at Behind the Grind.
WORCA may also be hosting recreational rides on Whistlers trails on Sunday. More details to follow.
For younger riders, Crankworx will also bring back the Kids race in the village. The race will feature a short course on the Village Stroll, with prizes for participants.
The evenings will also feature live entertainment. The Jim Beam Outdoor Music Series features Aqueduct, a Seattle one-man outfit, at 5 p.m. on Friday, followed by Canadian indie rock band Boy at 8:30 p.m.
Saturdays show kicks of with Threat From Outer Space at 4 p.m. Jah Orah takes the stage after the slopestyle awards at 8:30 p.m, with Oaklands Bukue One. The final act is DJ Zac Hendrix a.k.a. Del Tha Funky Homosapien.
A nightclub event series will also take place, featuring various DJs and performers. More details will be available prior to the festival.
For more information on Crankworx, or to register to take part in any of the events, visit www.crankworx.com.