This time last year, Adrien Loron and Jill Kintner entered Crankworx Whistler with the overall King and Queen of Crankworx leads — as well as a line on the $25,000 bonus accompanying those distinctions.
After the three events in Rotorua, New Zealand, Les Gets, France and Innsbruck, Austria, it's an eerily similar peak this time around, as both enter this year's event with an advantage. However, Frenchman Loron let his lead slip away in 2016 as Czech rider Tomas Slavik earned the cheque and the ruler's spear. American Kintner, meanwhile, only built on her lead while in Whistler and ran away with her treasure.
Like last year, Loron only holds a slim advantage of 50 points that is far from insurmountable. (In the Crankworx system, podium performances are worth 150, 100 and 75 points, respectively, while a fourth-place finish earns riders 50.) Kintner, meanwhile, doesn't have the 315-point lead she did in 2016, but with a 165-point gap on Australia's Caroline Buchanan, has a significant headstart on the field.
Loron, a 25-year-old pump-track and dual speed and slalom star, was also within grasp of the title when it was first offered in 2015 and feels like the third time around will be lucky.
"I've been close to this title (the) last two years. It's the third year in a row that I'm focusing on it — it would be insane (to win)!" Loron wrote when reached by email. "You never know what's gonna happen, especially when you're competing against the best riders in the world so I will need to get my best for sure, and grab as (many) points as I can during the four events I will race."
Though Kintner, who hails from Bellingham, Wash., is an absolute demon on Whistler courses with medals in all but two Crankworx Whistler festivals, she knows not to take anything for granted.
"It would mean a lot (to win again). It's not an easy task to win this series and it shows diversity and excellence in several disciplines," she explained in an email.
Overall discipline titles are also on the line as athletes compete for cash prizes. Sweden's Emil Johansson, at just 17, leads the charge for the Crankworx Slopestyle World Tour ranking. Slopestyle is the only discipline in which the overall scores are calculated on aggregate, so after performing consistently in the first three contests, he boasts nearly an 18-point lead on American Nicholi Rogatkin as they chase the $25,000 prize. Rogatkin, however, is the only rider eligible for the Triple Crown of Slopestyle, also worth $25,000, after winning the Rotorua and Innsbruck contests but struggling in Les Gets.
Meanwhile, in dual speed and style, Czechia's Jakub Vencl holds a 125-point lead on Loron and Sweden's Martin Soderstrom as they chase a $5,000 prize. As for the pump track championship, Loron will look to hold off countryman Chaney Guennet and American Mitch Ropelato to find himself $5,000 richer while Buchanan will look to take a third win over Kintner and secure the overall title.
Lastly, Aussies have the best chance of taking home the downhill crown and $10,000 as Jack Moir, Mick Hannah and Troy Brosnan are all within 65 points of one another while Tracey Hannah can, at worst, find herself in a tie with Switzerland's Emilie Siegenthaler.
Pro events start Saturday, Aug. 12 with the Clif Dual Speed and Style in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park boneyard. Finals are slated to go from 5 to 7 p.m. On Sunday, Aug. 13, the Sram Canadian Open Enduro is set to kick off at 7 a.m. with final riders expected to cross the finish line, also in the boneyard, between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.
The Garbanzo DH will run on Tuesday, Aug. 15 with the pros dropping between 3 and 5 p.m. and the Fox Air DH runs the next day on Wednesday, Aug. 16 between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. On Thursday, Aug. 17, the Official Whip-Off World Championships will run between 2:30 and 4 p.m. at Crabapple Hits in the bike park, while the Ultimate Pump Track Challenge is set for 8 to 10 p.m. that evening up at Blackcomb Base 2.
The final weekend will wrap with the Giant Dual Slalom in the boneyard from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18, the Canadian Open DH between 1:45 and 5:30 p.m. in the bike park on Saturday, Aug.19 and the Red Bull Joyride from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 20.
While smoke and haze have permeated the Sea to Sky corridor for over a week, Crankworx spokesperson Jennifer Smith said in a text message on Aug. 8 that conditions are expected to lift before the first day of racing on Friday, Aug. 11. However, organizers are making contingency plans just in case conditions don't cooperate.
"We are just doing our due diligence contacting health authorities and setting a plan (B) course for the Enduro with less climbing," she wrote. "But otherwise, we are planning to roll forward as normal."
She noted there isn't an exact threshold for cancellation at this point, but she added discussions would start when the air quality health index levels reached 10 or higher.