Crankworx doesn't have anything massive planned for its 15th year here in Whistler in 2018, but there are some notable differences on its 2018 schedule, released last week.
While Crankworx Events Inc. general manager Darren Kinnaird hopes to have some special 15-year merchandise available, he said the major celebration will come at the time of the 20th anniversary.
But between additional events and some new dates and times for existing races, there is plenty to take note of for next year, which will consist of stops in Rotorua, New Zealand from March 17 to 25, Innsbruck, Austria from June 13 to 17, Les Gets, France from June 20 to 24 and the flagship here in Whistler from Aug. 10 to 19.
Most notably, the tour will add women's dual slalom events in Rotorua and Les Gets, allowing women the opportunity to collect more points for Queen of Crankworx. As well, Kinnaird said there will be additional women's autograph signings across the tour.
Noting Crankworx's push for equality among men and women with equal prize money and shared podiums, Kinnaird said it was time to expand the number of races for women.
"We want to create heroes of the women just as much as the men and having the little kids that attend Crankworx have female and male heroes," he said. "It drives more engagement in the sport by both boys and girls."
A change that will be noticeable in Whistler is the shifting of Red Bull Joyride back to Saturday night after being scheduled on Sunday for the past two years.
"Sunday, Sunday, Sunday is now Saturday, Saturday, Saturday," Kinnaird said with a chuckle. "The main reason we switched to Sunday was to capture the live European audience if we did it on Sunday morning. But what we learned is that it doesn't matter when we have the event. People will still tune in regardless, and they tune in in the hundreds of thousands.
"When it's on the Saturday night here, people wake up in the morning in Europe and they have all day Sunday to watch it."
The slopestyle event will remain on Sunday in Les Gets, while the three others will bump up to Saturday.
Kinnaird said Crankworx made its decision based on data gathered from viewership of its four events in significantly different time zones.
"The natural home for the slopestyle event is Saturday night," he said, noting three of the four this year will take place in prime time. "The evening timeslot seems to be a nice, natural fit."
Here in Whistler, the slopestyle switch will mean shifting the Canadian Open DH back to Sunday. Kinnaird said while the Joyride has been lucky weather-wise in its Sunday slot, there's little room for postponement if necessary.
As well, the bulk of slopestyle athletes are at Crankworx primarily, if not exclusively, for Joyride, whereas downhill riders are generally competing more days than not. The chance for a breather before the festival's ultimate race should allow for some more high-quality racing in the Canadian Open.
The schedule switch should also provide a little extra drama in some of the overall chases.
"By doing it this way, the King and Queen of Crankworx should come down to the final day," he said.
In the big picture, a minor adjustment will see the Innsbruck and Les Gets stops switching places. Kinnaird said it was a serendipitous turn of events as organizers of both requested to hold their events in different weeks. From a travel perspective, he added, it'll allow participating UCI World Cup athletes to progress west before Crankworx instead of zigzagging across Europe as the Leogang, Austria tour stop is now set for the week before the Innsbruck race.
"The schedule just sets up perfectly for next summer," he said. "(Last year), we had a good crew of World Cup athletes at both events, but it was kind of split and I think that next year, we'll see consistent attendance at both."