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'All roads lead to Whistler:' Kinnaird

Creating Crankworx circuit with Rotorua addition welcomed by organizers



Crankworx's offerings for the 2015 campaign are expanding to the southern hemisphere.

In addition to the flagship event here in Whistler and the still-green Les Deux Alpes stop in France (added in 2012), Crankworx is now creating a true circuit with the addition of a stop in Rotorua, New Zealand. The inaugural event will run from March 25 to 29.

"By adding a third stop, it allows us to create a Crankworx world tour," Crankworx Events Inc. general manager Darren Kinnaird said. "It allows us to create tour points, a series, within some of the different discipline."

Kinnaird explained the circuit would now be able to crown champions in disciplines like slopestyle and pump track, as well as creating a four-race downhill series with two of Whistler's races counting in the standings.

Kinnaird explained even though the new addition is landing a world away, its impact would be felt when Crankworx Whistler returns from Aug. 7 to 16.

"All roads lead to Whistler for the other events, and puts a focus on Whistler being the culmination of a great season of mountain biking," Kinnaird explained.

Though Crankworx events generally have a strong cachet in several cycling disciplines, Kinnaird feels creating a series will help attract a few more elite athletes to them.

"It should draw more of the World Cup downhill athletes," he said. "We already are the Super Bowl of slopestyle and all those great athletes are here.

"The World Series in Whistler always attracts the best enduro riders."

After crossing the pond to add the French event, Crankworx organizers felt creating a trio would make things just right. Kinnaird noted Australia was the first choice of landing spot, but after some searching, eventually got connected with the Rotorua district council. He was invited down for a site visit on New Zealand's North Island within a month, and the Rotorua addition was announced at last year's Red Bull Joyride at Crankworx Whistler. He's excited for the addition to be in a community where cycling is top priority, and in a country he said feels it gets short shrift when it comes to high-performance international events.

"Both Les Deux Alpes and Whistler are classic ski resorts first," Kinnaird said. "Rotorua doesn't get snow at all. The bike park is open year-round and the mountains aren't nearly as high."

Though he enjoyed the Skyline Gravity Park, Kinnaird is particularly enthused about the mountain biking options in the Whakarewarewa Forest, which he got the chance to test for himself.

"They have 130 km of single-track in this forest. It's the mountain biking capital of New Zealand," he said. "I got a chance to ride some of it when I was there in April and it was amazing.

"They have red clay dirt, which is the most amazing dirt to build bike trails with probably anywhere. It's clearly different from what we have in Whistler or Les Deux Alpes, traditional mountain resort towns."

Kinnaird said riders are also pretty excited for the New Zealand stop, noting that in initial consultations, the athletes were trying to edge him eastward from Australia. He noted while several of the world's top athletes had never been to the island nation, numerous others had started to make it their winter home for training.

Kinnaird added further expansion isn't at the forefront for organizers these days, but didn't rule out scoping out other destinations.

"Right now, we're comfortable with three. For Crankworx, we want to be in great riding destinations, but we also want to be in markets that would consider Whistler as a holiday," he said. "If the right opportunities come along within those parameters — makes sense for our sponsors, makes sense for the athletes, it's the right destination — we'll consider it."