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Photos: Sea to Sky amateurs shine on Whistler’s biggest MTB stage

Despite their amateur status, Squamish’s Peter Knott and Whistler’s Paris Boucher put their names alongside the pros at Crankworx Whistler

When Crankworx Whistler rolls into the village each year, it is impossible to miss. With the huge Red Bull Joyride features built into Whistler Mountain Bike Park’s Boneyard, massive structures erected as home-base for the large-scale brand sponsors, and more people than even seems possible walking through the Village Stroll, it’s clearly the town’s premier event.

Amongst all the hype and infrastructure that comes with the festival, one of the biggest aspects of the 10-day event—regardless of if you are a starstruck kid or a longtime mountain bike enthusiast—is the presence of some of the biggest names in the mountain biking world.

And while there is no doubt those athletes are the ones drawing in the thousands upon thousands of spectators, the pro side isn’t the only thing Crankworx is about. It’s also about bringing together the entire mountain biking community, from kids to amateurs to pros, and all the “Cinderella stories” that come along with local riders having a chance to line up in the start gates with the big dogs, according to managing director Darren Kinnaird.

Two local standouts from Crankworx’s return to Whistler this year include 20-year-old Whistlerite Paris Boucher and 27-year-old Peter Knott, of Squamish.

Boucher, racing in the Senior Open category of the Air DH event, took the win with a time of 4:44.411, which would have been good enough for fifth place in the pro category ahead of well-known names like Sechelt’s 17-year-old phenom Gracey Hemstreet and Australia’s Harriet Burbidge-Smith.

“I wasn’t really expecting to do that well, and when I found out that I got first and I beat some of those big girls, I was so excited,” said Boucher. “It was just really neat. It wasn’t what I was expecting, so it was a really nice surprise. It was just like, a cool feeling, knowing that I’m capable of that.”

Similarly for Knott, who was born in Australia and moved to the Sea to Sky in 2019, seeing his name land in a podium position in the Pro Men’s category of the Canadian Open Downhill wasn’t something he expected when he lined up for the seeding run the day prior to Sunday’s race.

“I felt really comfortable. I felt like I was riding pretty good and yeah, came down in seeding and saw I was sitting in third. I kind of thought that maybe something went wrong with the timing because I didn’t really think I was going to be putting up pace with the top boys, but I guess it was real,” he said. “The next day I thought, well, this is a golden opportunity. And I knew that all I needed to do was put it all together and just make it down clean and I guess that’s exactly what happened. Everything kind of went into place.”

Knott beat his seeding time by 2.7 seconds and found himself standing on the podium’s second step when all was said and done.

Both riders took a similar approach to Crankworx 2022, entering their events just for fun to see where they would stack up against the pros—but their approaches to the sport itself couldn’t be more different.

For Boucher, who views mountain biking as just a fun hobby in her free time and questions whether she has the “mindset for competitive racing,” she may just look back at her run at Crankworx as a fun, one-time experience with no desire to pursue a racing career outside of the occasional random event.

As for Knott, who grew up in the competitive race scene, spending time on the junior World Cup circuit before taking a break to focus on his education, the podium finish might be the push he needs to get back into competitive racing for good and try his hand at some World Cup races next season.

“It definitely does make me want to take it more seriously. I guess with the way things have been going this year, I’ve had a lot of my competitors and a lot of my friends asking me why I’m not doing the World Cup circuit, and I don’t really have a good answer,” said Knott. “I’m almost at the point now where I’m getting bullied into going to the World Cups next year. But ... bullied in a good way, because I also want to do it. I guess I’ve just never really had the belief that I had the ability to perform better than those guys until very recently. So I mean, hell yeah. Bring it on.”

Coming off a win at the Stevie Smith Memorial Downhill race this past weekend at Mount Washington, Knott plans to attend a couple more races around B.C. in September before switching his focus to training to get in shape for his attempt to join the World Cup circuit in 2023.

And while Boucher doesn’t have any plans to do the same anytime soon, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t still have goals in the sport. Over the years, she hopes to continue progressing and start checking off more things from her Whistler Mountain Bike Park bucket list.

“I guess I just always want to progress and learn more tricks. I always start the season with a bucket list. So this year I’ve had a few trails that I wanted to cross off and some tricks and stuff. So if I can just keep progressing, I think that’d be really cool, just for myself,” she said.

“Next, I want to start whipping Crabapple [Hits]. I’ve been riding the trail a bit more recently, and I’ve started trying to carve up the lip on the last jump, but it’s so scary. But that’s what I’m focused on right now. Also, I want to do suicides. That would be really cool. I want to be like a stylish rider, that’s kind of my goal.”

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