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The other greatest sporting event in the world

Crankworx Whistler draws top freeriders from around the globe

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When the Olympics start to wind down at the end of next week, Crankworx Whistler will just be getting underway; and the two events couldn't be more different. One is about tradition, the other about progression; one set of athletes competes for medals, the other for oversized novelty cheques; one set of fans claps politely; the others rip off their T-shirts, wrap them around their heads and party in the hot sun at Heckler's Rock; one event is rebroadcast on television; the other is live in our own backyard; one is for elite athletes that qualify at global level competitions; and one is mostly open to anybody with a bike.

The one thing they have in common, however, is that they both feature the best in the world; in the case of the Olympics, that means runners, swimmers, strength and endurance athletes and more; at Crankworx Whistler that means the top freeride mountain bike athletes on the planet.

Crankworx Whistler gets underway on Aug. 10 and runs through Aug. 19. Over the 10-day festival are a dozen different events, all but two of which are open to the general public — and many of which are expected to sell out.

The number of events is up over last year, as is the amount of prize money up for grabs — $175,000 in cash and prizes, or more than twice the total prize purse from five years ago. Over $47,000 is up for grabs in the invite-only Red Bull Joyride slopestyle competition alone, but there is a lot of money on the table for downhillers as well. The top male in the Canadian Open DH will win $10,000, while the top female will take $5,000, making it the biggest prize purses in the world for a downhill race.

Darren Kinnaird, the event director for Crankworx, said that the prize money is a reflection of strong sponsorship, which itself is a reflection of the size and popularity of the event.

"I think it's the overall package that Crankworx can deliver for sponsors — and not just the onsite activation and the chance to interact with 100,000 people in 10 days, but also the online reach that Crankworx has been able to deliver," said Kinnaird.

For example, Crankworx and Jeep — which sponsored the Air Downhill in 2011 — have worked together on the Canadian Open Downhill with the goal of making it one of the premier downhill events in North America. Jeep is responsible for the boost in prize money, as well as the production values of the event.

"For us, (production values) are the single most important thing we invest in," said Kinnaird. "It's about the onsite experience and taking the event global, letting people tune in from around the world. Crankworx is a leader in mountain biking from the online production perspective. This year we have eight days of live webcasts and more than 20 hours of event coverage.

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