Squamish, you have yourself not one but two Crankworx champions.
On July 23, Jakob Jewett and his younger brother Dane each lit Creekside's 1199 track on fire en route to clutch Canadian Open Downhill triumphs in their respective categories. Though Jakob bested all comers in the elite men's division with a blistering time of three minutes and 29.807 seconds, Dane's afterburners proved to be even more potent as he threw down the fastest time out of any athlete in any age category (3:28.768).
Not too shabby for a young man who's still racing in the U19 field.
Risk it for the biscuit
When asked about his race tactics going into Sunday's showdown, Dane candidly stated: "Have fun, think good thoughts and just go as hard as I can. Risk my life, to be honest."
"I'm so proud because [Dane's] my main training buddy. We ride so much together, and obviously he's my brother so I want to see him do well," Jakob said. "I saw his time and I'm like: damn, that's a fast time, so I knew I had to push hard. It was a great day."
Indeed it was, if you're a Sea to Sky mountain bike enthusiast. Dane got to stand on the U19 men's podium next to his close friend, Tegan Cruz, who rode an excellent performance of his own to a silver medal and the delight of his fellow Pembertonians (3:34.369). Yet another Squamolian, Ryan Griffith, found enough speed for bronze (3:35.005).
Meanwhile, Jakob shared the spotlight with runner-up Mark Wallace from Duncan, B.C. (3:30.847). Wallace put together a valiant effort himself, at one point stealing top spot from New Zealander Tuhoto-Ariki Pene (3:30.882), who had spent most of the race in the hot seat.
“Honestly, second place hurts sometimes,” Wallace remarked. “But it’s really cool to see these fast Canadian kids coming up. They're pushing all of us, and it just elevates the level and the depth of racing in the country. As a Canadian, it's the best.”
Pene earned third place and valuable points in the King of Crankworx standings as he looks to supersede Bas van Steenbergen of Vernon.
“Oh, I’m happy with [my run], eh,” Pene said. “Don’t get to ride the fresh tracks too often anymore, but it’s so good.”
If there was a low note to this year's downhill contest, it was the unexpected absence of Finn Iles. Despite managing the fastest time in seeding, Iles was forced to withdraw due to a thumb injury.
Full gear, full send
No one quite knows how Jakob discovered his championship speed.
The elder Jewett found himself in the starting gate as last man to drop in after a long and colourful day of downhill racing. He had just witnessed Wallace attack 1199 from top to bottom, taking a number of daring lines through the rocks and roots of the course named for his late mentor Stevie Smith. Jakob laboured in the red for nearly his entire run, thanks in part to an early miscalculation that saw his back wheel briefly skid out.
Somehow, some way, Jakob found a higher gear reserved only for the creators of unforgettable moments. Clearing the final shark-fin jump with aplomb, it was as if he heard the cheers of a raucous Whistler crowd and transformed them into rocket fuel. The Squamolian churned his legs all the way to the finish, and those in attendance screamed when they saw green next to his name.
“I felt like I was really good at the top, so I was pretty gutted to make a big mistake up there,” Jakob said. “So from that mistake onward, I just knew I had to push hard. Little bobbles here and there, but I felt like for the bottom half of my run, I just dug deep and left it all out.”
It’s been a rough road back to elite contention for Jakob, who battled the injury bug at various points over the last few years. He describes his dual slalom victory at Crankworx Innsbruck this June as the first time in a while he’d been proud of himself on a bike.
As of today, the 20-year-old has battled all the way back.
“It feels insane,” he admitted. “This race obviously meant a lot to the Canadians, I think, and you saw it today—we were all pushing hard. This sport’s so tough, you know? Injuries can happen anytime and there's a lot of bad luck that can happen, but I just tried to keep my head down, keep working and just trust the process.”
Dane enjoyed a more comfortable margin of victory than his older brother, and at just 17 years old, the sky is his limit. Much like Jakob, he has a big win at Crankworx Innsbruck this year, though his came in downhill.
"I won Innsbruck too, so to top it off with a win here feels so good," said Dane. "It was probably the best race run I've ever had, so I couldn't be more stoked. All my friends and family are here. Vibes are high, stoke is high."
Cruz was one of many who were thrilled to congratulate Dane on his electrifying performance.
“Daner-bomb, he’s a good buddy of mine,” said the Pemberton native. “We've been riding and racing together since we were little kids, and we’re just loving it.”
Cruz had some extra Sunday motivation of his own. His older brother Lucas injured a foot in training, which knocked him out of the entire Crankworx festival. Fortunately, the family will have at least some hardware to take home.
“It's definitely too bad about my brother and his ankle for sure, but he'll be back out there and our family’s strong,” Cruz said. “So I’m just doing my best to keep it going.”
Throughout the day, athletes of all ages and skill levels carved their way down one of the most highly-anticipated Crankworx tracks in recent memory. 1199 is an absolute beast, featuring a myriad of line options, rough terrain and three sizable drops that claimed their share of victims. It is approximately 2.5 kilometres in length, with 500 metres of descent so steep that riders can see the finish area from the top.
Most Canadian mountain bike fans revere Smith for all that he’s done to fuel the sport in this nation, from coast to coast. He tragically passed away at 26 years of age due to a motorcycle accident, three years after his landmark 2013 World Cup overall title. The number of points he scored that season—1199—is immortalized in Whistler’s new venue and in the minds of many an athlete.
“I was lucky enough to meet him a handful of times when I was younger,” Jakob recalled in a press release. “I watched Stevie a lot as a young kid at Mont-Sainte-Anne and stuff. I really wanted to do good at this race. You’re seeing that Canadians are really becoming a threat in downhill and I think it’s all because of him.”
Wallace too, strives to do everything he can to honour Smith’s legacy by representing both the Maple Leaf and Vancouver Island in particular.
““I’m really happy to put down a run I can be proud of, on a track in his memory, and on a track that I think he would have been really excited to race. He preferred the more difficult tracks, more technically challenging that you really had to send it,” Wallace commented in a release.
“I credit me being here, even still, largely to [Stevie]. When I was 16, wanting to race, he kind of showed me the way. I’ve tried to remember the things that he taught me, because it obviously worked out well for him. He would be so excited to go send it down this track. I just gave it my best and tried to do something similar.”
Full results are available online. Keep it locked to Pique Newsmagazine for more Crankworx Whistler coverage.