Despite being born and raised in one of the world’s great mountain biking paradises, Georgia Astle did not spend as much of her childhood on two wheels as one might expect. In fact, her competition days didn’t begin until she joined her high school mountain bike team and realized that downhill—rather than cross-country—was her discipline of choice.
It took a little while, however, for Astle to bring her gear up to snuff.
“I didn’t have a mechanic or anyone to educate me on bike setup at that point, so I just had no clue what was the right stuff to run,” she admitted. “I remember riding ‘Hey Bud’ for the first time on a 120-millimetre travel bike that I raced the local cross-country races on. The seat tube was so high that I probably went over the bars six times.
“I was instantly sold on the steeps and saved up to upgrade to a slightly more capable trail machine. Coming from skiing and boarding, I already had the foundation of liking to go downhill fast.”
‘It would be pretty special’
Astle’s family spent most summers out of town, which meant she rarely got to take part when Crankworx rolled around. Her first true taste of the beloved festival came in 2014: as a 16-year-old athlete, she rode in the Open Women’s category before U21 existed as its own age bracket.
Courageously (and perhaps a bit cluelessly), Astle stepped into the arena astride a short travel bike with thin cross-country sidewalls on her tires.
“This was the year of the infamous Crankzilla course,” she recalled. “Thirty-two-degree heat, over 65 kilometres and four flat tires later, I limped into the finish line.”
Far from being deterred, Astle has participated in every edition of Crankworx Whistler since then. Her kit has improved considerably, as have her skills.
In addition to a pair of Crankworx Whip-Off medals earlier this year—silver in Rotorua and bronze in Innsbruck—the 26-year-old has experienced success on home turf. She took second in the 2019 air downhill and third in that same event last year.
Said third-place finish did not come easily, for Astle had competed in the 2022 EWS race just a day prior. It was the first time in eight years that she’d done any enduro under the Crankworx banner, and she wound up 15th after a difficult day.
“It was so tough and I was physically drained at the start of the week, but pulled through for a podium [in the air downhill]—which I was pretty surprised by, to be honest,” Astle said. “It’s always a nice reminder while going through those big days how far I can actually push myself, both mentally and physically.
“I always come out the other side feeling accomplished and relieved to be done.”
Astle appreciates the social aspect of enduro, but isn’t sure if she’ll try it this time around. This time, it will be the final race on the Crankworx Whistler calendar, and she plans to be cognizant of her physical and mental state throughout the week. Enduro presents a different challenge from the more sprint-oriented disciplines: one must play the long game, mitigate the risk of crashes or mechanical issues, and find top speed while keeping energy in reserve throughout the day.
In downhill, though, Astle is a proven contender with the resume to back up her high hopes.
“It would be pretty special to take the win on my favourite track in the world this year,” she said. “It’s also one of the most competitive and tightest to clinch, though.”
Despite having been around the globe for all manner of competitions, Astle is hard-pressed to find an event that can top Crankworx in her backyard. In her opinion, the hometown fans bring “unbeatable” vibes and it is hard to top being cheered on by swaths of loved ones.
“The bike community is worldwide, but mostly everyone comes to hang or at least wishes they could be around for Crankworx,” Astle said. “The Sea to Sky hosts a lot of passionate people that make absolute magic happen in this beautiful place. That means there’s a lot of respect and acknowledgement for the land we live on, the sense of community and helping each other out to get everyone stoked for being outside.”
Astle herself holds great respect for the land, the sport and the community. Past interactions with professional skiers and snowboarders stand out in her mind, and her fan-friendly nature is an acknowledgement of the platform she now has. The Whistlerite gives back by coaching new waves of mountain bikers with organizations like TaG Cycling, the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association (WORCA) and Ride Like a Girl.
“Coaching kids that already have a baseline love for sports is so fun,” Astle said. “All the talent is there, and you just have to harness the stoke and pass on your bits of knowledge to them. I can’t wait to get back into coaching properly when I have a bit more time to give.”
Crankworx Whistler runs from July 21 to 30. Keep it locked to Pique Newsmagazine for coverage of your favourite riders and events throughout the festival.