World’s best en route to Crankworx 

Freeride festival’s new events appeal to spectators

Just two weeks out from the sixth annual Crankworx freeride mountain bike festival, registration is picking up for the open competitions while the top downhill racers and trick riders in the world are booking their trips to Whistler.

The nine-day festival, Aug. 9 to 17, includes 11 events. Some, like the Jim Beam Air Downhill, Monster Energy Garbanzo Downhill, Monster Energy Slopestyle, and Kona Canadian Open Downhill, have been more or less a part of the festival since the beginning, while others — Womenzworx, the Dual Slalom — are only in their second year. New to the festival in 2008 are the addition of the Ken Quon “Ride On” team cross country race, the Volkswagen Trick Showdown, Kidworx, the Giant (Bicycles) Slalom, and Trialsworx.

The emphasis is on spectator-friendly events, says Crankworx manager Jeremy Roche.

“It’s really an athlete-inspired process,” said Roche of the new events added to the lineup. “The VW Trick Showdown is modeled after a successful event in the Crankworx Colorado event last summer. The Giant Slalom is a combination of feedback from pro athletes and our own trail crew, who were looking to create something brand new in the spirit of innovation that has defined Crankworx the last five years. At the end of the day everything is really spectator-friendly, fun to watch, and free to watch as well.”

The slopestyle, arguably the biggest event of the competition with an estimated audience of about 15,000 last year, went back to an invite-only format this year. The only qualifying events were the Boneyard Air Affair earlier this summer, where Kelowna’s Casey Groves won a spot in the show, and the Crankworx Colorado competition that’s underway next weekend at Winter Park. The field for this year’s slopestyle includes defending champion Ben Boyko, past champions Paul Basagoitia and Cam McCaul, local riders Alex Prochazka and Brandon Semenuk, Darren Berrecloth, Andrew Lacondeguy, Kyle Strait and Thomas Vanderham.

The slopestyle course was designed by mountain bike pro John Cowan, with an emphasis on obstacles that encourage riders to show off tricks. The grand finale of the event is a step-up jump to a wood ramp that ends with a kicker, encouraging riders to spin and get inverted. The past two years the last trick was a huge drop over a television screen that was fun to watch, but difficult for riders to trick-out. Ben Boyko, the winner in 2007, was the only rider to spin a 360 off the final drop.

The on-hill race events will feature riders Sam Hill, the reigning world downhill champion and Garbanzo Downhill champion, who is currently sitting second overall on the downhill World Cup circuit; Brian Lopes, the reigning Air Downhill champion; 2007 Biker X champion Cedric Gracia; 2007 Canadian Open Champion Fabien Barel; brothers Dan and Gee Atherton (Gee currently leads the World Cup downhill standings), their sister Rachel Atherton (the current women’s World Cup leader), Tracey Mosely, Fionn Griffiths and Jill Kintner.

With the exception of the slopestyle and trick competition, all of the events are open to the public. Roche says registration is on par with last year’s event, when most of the race events sold out more than 200 spots.

So far visitor numbers are also tracking on par with last year, and up to 250,000 people are expected to pass through Whistler during the nine days of Crankworx to race, watch events, and take in the other festival entertainment. A full slate of live bands, performing on the mainstage throughout the festival, will be announced next week.

Because of a few timing issues that cropped up last year, most notably a problem with timing in the dual slalom that forced the event to be postponed a day, Crankworx has enlisted the services of California’s Big Bear Timing to watch the gates. Big Bear Timing provides services to some of the biggest events in the world, including the annual Sea Otter Classic.

“With the best in the world attending Crankworx, we wanted to ensure we have the best team providing timing and data for both our professional and amateur athletes,” said Seb Fremont, operations manager for Kokanee Crankworx. “With over 1,000 racer starts over the festival, we will now ensure the best possible experience for our competitors, from registration through to the results process.”

This year organizers have also bumped up the prize purse to $70,000, with $30,000 going to the top riders in the slopestyle. The Volkswagen Trick Showdown will have a prize purse of $8,000, and the Jim Beam Air Downhill, Monster Energy Garbanzo Downhill, Dual Slalom, Giant (Bicycles) Slalom, and Canadian Open Downhill will each have a prize purse of $6,000 this year. The WomenzWorx competition will have $3,200 in cash to give out. Other events will present winners with prizes and medals.

For more information or registration, visit www.crankworx.com.

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