The best mountain bike riders in the world are coming for big money, big mountain riding and big spectator thrills.
Crankworx 2013 starts on Friday, Aug. 9 and continues through Aug. 18 with no less than $160,000 in prize money on the line for competitors in the bike events.
The best of the best in the downhill mountain bike world are coming for the tenth edition of the festival that pioneered the concept of mega mountain bike events.
The confirmed riders for the biggest Crankworx money event, the Red Bull Joyride, include Brandon Semenuk, Thomas Genon, Martin Soderstrom, Cam McCaul and Mike Montgomery. The 18 riders chosen to partake in the event are vying for $50,000 in prizing. The top finisher will take home a cheque for $25,000. The event has attracted as many as 20,000 spectators in previous years.
The course for the event has been reworked from last year to get the racers moving across the hill more.
Darren Berrecloth and Brandon Semenuk have been test riding the course, according to a news release from the event organizers. Both agree the course is ready.
Darren Kinnaird, the Crankworx general manager, said the course changes were inspired by a discussion during a meeting with athletes and event organizers after the Red Bull Rampage in Utah. Kinnaird said the athletes pushed to have the Whistler event flow across the hill. According to Kinnaird, the seven obstacles featured on the course last year has increased to 12 this year.
"The course has been completely redesigned... with a lot of input and a lot of feedback from the athletes, more so than ever before," said Kinnaird.
He called the athlete feedback a game changer. One of the riders who helped shape the course was Whistler's Brandon Semenuk.
"Any good course has rider input and Red Bull Joyride is honestly a rider-inspired course," said Semenuk in a release.
According to Kinnaird, the athlete reaction through Facebook and Twitter has been positive.
"They're all very excited," said Kinnaird. "We're hoping for a big show."
The hot new trend in mountain bike racing is the enduro format and Kinnaird has been instrumental in setting up a world tour for the best enduro riders.
The SRAM Canadian Open Enduro presented by Specialized at Crankworx will be the fifth of seven stops on the newly created Enduro World Series tour.
"We've really upped our game on this event this year," said Kinnaird. "We've upped the prize purse and we have most of the world's best enduro athletes here competing this Sunday."
The event will feature five stages on trails inside and outside the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. Competitors will be timed on the downhill sections — the uphill sections aren't timed, but riders have to get to the start of each downhill section by a specified time. The best enduro riders are good all-mountain competitors using bikes designed for effective uphill and downhill riding.
Brian Finestone, the manager of the Whistler Bike Park, is very excited about the enduro event. He and his trail crew put many hours into preparing the course.
"Most of the guys on the crew are heavily invested in mountain biking and are either racing in some of the ones that are open category or are sitting there watching the pros," said Finestone. "That excitement and passion is what fuels the motivation to do all the work."
Finestone noted that his son, Finn, has grown up with the event. Finn is just as old as the event so he's been around for each one, including the first year when Finestone said he had his son with him in the bike park at times strapped into a chest carrier.
"Four or five years and he'll likely be there in the mix," said Finestone of his mountain biker son.
Kinnaird noted that most event award ceremonies this year will take place at Whistler Olympic Plaza ahead of the evening's featured entertainment in the plaza. The ceremonies will begin at various times half an hour or 30 minutes before the featured entertainment.
"It will give the athletes a chance to go home, maybe shower up, put on cleaner clothes, put on their sponsor gear and look fresh for the awards," Kinnaird said. "That's what they do for the Olympics and it works."
After events that are being broadcast there's going to be a Google Hangout session through Google+. Once the webcast is done for the various events being broadcast over the Internet, the hangout will begin and athletes will be interviewed to review what happened during the event. Kinnaird said it is an exciting new addition to the Crankworx mix.
Heading into the 2013 event the top men from around the world will be hoping to prevent Stevie Smith from repeating his success at the festival last year when he pulled off a triple-crown victory. Smith took the top spots in the Garbanzo Downhill, the Jeep Canadian Open Downhill and the Air Downhill. Casey Brown had a good showing last year winning the women's Jeep Canadian Open Downhill and the Garbanzo Downhill.
In addition to the athletic competitions that highlight the festival there will also be a photography show, a video event and concerts. The cultural components of the two-week festival are slated for Whistler Olympic Plaza and come with strong prize-money as well.