Crankworx starts with a bang 

Huge crowds for opening events; freeride festival continues through Sunday

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BLAKE JORGENSEN - okaaaaaayyyy!Riders show off their whip skills on Tuesday at the (un)Official Whip Off World Champs, a new event for Crankworx Whistler.
  • Photo by Blake Jorgensen
  • okaaaaaayyyy!Riders show off their whip skills on Tuesday at the (un)Official Whip Off World Champs, a new event for Crankworx Whistler.

While some might say the best is still to come, the opening to Crankworx Whistler has been pretty spectacular already with a huge crowd at Whistler Olympic Plaza for the Fat Tire Crit, the sold-out Canadian Open Enduro and the debut of two new events — the Dual Speed and Style presented by Avid on Saturday night and the (un)Official Whip-Off World Championships on Tuesday to a big audience of freeride fans. Wednesday's Air Downhill was also sold out (results to be posted next week).

The competitions continue tonight (Thursday, Aug. 16) with the Teva Best Trick Showdown at the base of Whistler Mountain from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., followed by the Ultimate Pump Track Challenge presented by Rock Shox at Whistler Olympic Plaza at 8 p.m. Friday is the Giant Dual Slalom and the start of Kidsworx/Trialsworx, Saturday is the Canadian Cheese Rolling Championships and Red Bull Joyride — the biggest slopestyle contest of the year with a $47,250 prize purse — and Sunday is the Jeep Canadian Open DH, which promises to be one of the biggest downhill races of the season with a prize purse of $30,000.

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Here's what's transpired so far:

American riders top Fat Tire Crit

Strategy was key in the opening Fat Tire Crit event of Crankworx Whistler this year, with both winners having small crashes and coming from behind to take the titles.

The women went first, racing for 15 minutes plus three laps around an 800-metre loop of Whistler Olympic Plaza that included cobblestone sections, some gravel, some tight turns, a chicane and a wood ramp/jump feature.

A lead group of national and World Cup-level cross-country racers took over early, and at about the halfway mark Jean Ann Berkenpas made a break that looked like it might last. She had about eight seconds on the field at one point, but the chase group, with the ability to draft and conserve energy, bridged up to Berkenpas in the final few minutes.

With three laps remaining, Oregon's Kelli Emmett — an all-mountain world champion — pulled into the lead, and held onto it to the finish. New Zealand cross-country champion Rosara Joseph was second and Berkenpas, who won two primes, rallied to place third.

If she had a strategy, it quickly went out the window for Emmett.

"I went too fast to catch that first prime, and then I needed to sit back and recover after that. Then I clipped my pedal in the corner and took myself out. That bumped me back to fifth, but I slowly worked my way back up," she said.

"I was just trying to make jumps, keep up to the other girls. "I got a bit nervous riding with four other girls, I didn't want to crash in one of the turns or something, so I pulled away as soon as I could."

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