For many pro mountain bikers, the Crankworx World Tour can often be just another stop on the schedule—a chance to travel to cool places, make some money and party along the way, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the rest of their professional schedule too much.
But for a select group of people who get to call Whistler their hometown, Crankworx means so much more than that. It can be the source of passion for the sport that lasts a lifetime, and a place they aspire to one day be.
Whistler’s Jake Polito and Ethan Donohoe are two members of that select group.
Like many Whistler kids, Polito, 16, and Donohoe, 17, have been riding bikes for as long as they can remember.
Following the usual transition from balance bikes and tricycles to their first park laps and races, the two slowly grew a love for the sport of mountain biking.
And while that passion was natural given their surroundings, having the biggest mountain biking festival in the world right in their own backyard was a key driver in the path both Polito and Donohoe found themselves on.
“[Crankworx] has meant a lot to me. It’s always been the highlight of every summer,” said Donohoe.
“It helped [grow a passion for the sport] a lot. I would always see videos of pro riders riding trails in the park in Whistler and then I would want to go out and try that myself. When I was younger, I’d just be so stoked to see somebody that I knew in the line if they were a pro, and then at Crankworx, obviously, I’d go to all the signing sessions, too.”
Coming up through the Kidsworx and CWNEXT events over the years, for Polito and Donohoe, Crankworx was always more about the spectacle and getting a front-row seat to watch some of the best riders in the world.
But now, being a little older, and after two years without the event in Whistler, the feeling around Crankworx has changed a little.
While the excitement for the event is still there for the two of them, it has shifted from that of a fan, to that of a racer getting ready to compete. Even though the two are still competing in the junior divisions and aren’t quite shoulder-to-shoulder with the big dogs just yet, this year represented a stepping stone for the two to branch out and try more events than ever before.
And that proved to be a successful endeavour for the pair, as Polito, in the U17 category, finished second in the Canadian Open Downhill, fifth in the Dual Slalom and third in the Air DH, and was featured in Matt Tongue’s video submission in Dirt Diaries. Meanwhile, Donohoe, competing in the U19 category, rode to 11th in the Canadian Open and Dual Slalom events, a seventh-place finish in Pump Track and a third-place finish in Air DH.
But the highlight of the whole week was being selected for a wildcard spot in the Official Whip-Off World Championships, in which both Polito and Donohoe competed for the first time.
“I heard that maybe they have wildcard spots and that they would accept some this year possibly. And they decided to let a few kids in this year, so that was definitely a highlight,” said Polito. “It was really cool. I’ve always watched it as a young kid. It’s really cool to just ride with pros, there’s just a huge crowd, and I made it into the finals.
“And I should be invited next year as well, because I made it into the finals … so really excited about that.”
And the only thing better than rubbing shoulders with the pros in front of thousands of fans, according to Donohoe, was being able to do it with one of his oldest friends in Polito. The two grew up right down the street from each other and have been riding—and building “sketchy jumps” in the backyard—together since Day 1.
“It felt awesome to be a part of that. I’ve wanted to do the Whip-Off forever, so as soon as I got that email back from Crankworx, I was super stoked,” said Donohoe. “And it was awesome [to do it with Jake]. The crowd was going crazy for him, so that was awesome to see. We didn’t know what to expect, but had one of the best days ever together. It was so good.”