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Crankworx set for a showdown

Top freeriders face off in Red Bull Joyride

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The stage is set for what promises to be an entertaining and groundbreaking, event - the Red Bull Joyride, billed as the "Evolution of Slopestyle."

Thursday evening will give fans their first taste of what's to come with the Joyride Qualifier from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., followed by the $10,000 Teva Best Trick Showdown until 6:30 p.m. Some 25 invited riders will be taking part, including athletes looking to qualify for Joyride and a few athletes that have already qualified, but are looking for more time on the course. The first trick obstacle is the step-up booter at the top of the Joyride course, the second is the Kokanee Cabin at the base of the mountain.

Thursday also marks the return of the Pump Track Challenge from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., presented by Rock Shox at the top of the Boneyard. There's a whole new course this year, with lots of turns and humps for riders to pump speed. The finals will be decided by a two-run time trials, and the head-to-head format is back for the finals with riders starting on opposite ends of the track and racing to get back to where they started.

The Giant Slalom, sponsored by Giant, takes place on Friday evening with a two-run time trial format on the burly course that winds through the Boneyard. The amateur riders race from 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m., while pros race from 4:45 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The main Joyride event will get underway on Saturday evening (after the Trialworx trials competition winds up and the Canadian Cheese Rolling Championships have crowned two new winners) with athletes hitting the course from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

With upwards of 20,000 spectators expected it might be a good idea to get there a bit early to watch 16 riders vying for a share of the $45,000 prize purse - including $25,000 for first place, $10,000 for second, $5,000 for third, $3,500 for fourth and $1,500 for fifth.

All of the riders will get two runs to start with, with the top riders moving into the super final round.

The field of athletes is a who's who of freeriding, with some top names in the sport failing to even make the pre-qualified list this year - including past Crankworx winners like Paul Basagoitia, Greg Watts and Andreu Lacondeguy, and familiar names like Cam McCaul, Tyler McCaul, Antoine Bizet, Geoff Gulevich and Jamie Goldman.

Whistler's Brandon Semenuk is leading the list of pre-qualified athletes as he's currently the leader of the Freeride Mountain Bike (FMB) World Tour with wins at Jump Ship, 26Trix and the Claymore Challenge.

He's never won at home, despite third place results in 2007 and 2008, and a second place finish in 2009. In 2010 he was in a position to win, but had to pull out after under-rotating a backflip on the last obstacle and crashing hard to the landing ramp.

British rider Sam Pilgrim is just eight points behind Semenuk on the FMB leader-board, and also pre-qualified this year.

Cam Zink, last year's champion, is also on the pre-qualified list, along with Kelowna's Casey Groves (third in Crankworx last year), Vancouver Islander Darren Berrecloth (first in original slopestyle), New Zealand's Kelly McGarry, Sweden's Martin Soderstrom, American Mike Montgomery, Chilliwack's Sam Dueck and French rider Yannick Granieri (third on FMB listings).

This year marks the eighth anniversary for mountain bike slopestyle, which originated in Whistler during the Joyride festival in 2003. The next year the festival was re-branded as Crankworx and the slopestyle was renamed, which is part of the reason that Red Bull decided to bring the Joyride concept back - symbolizing a back-to-basics approach where all kinds of freeriding, like big mountain, North Shore, dirt jumps, stunt riding, street riding and more, are part of the course.

Crankworx also has other events worth checking out and entering if you're adventurous.

Trialsworx showcases the best trials biking talent in Canada in a mind-numbing format. Riders have to pedal and hop their bikes around short courses within the time limit, and without dabbing - which means touching your feet to the ground. The rider with the fewest dabs on their best of two runs wins.

Mill Bay's John Webster has won the pro category in every Trialsworx event, which he followed up with a seventh place finish at the world championships.

Trialsworx runs Friday and Saturday, starting with Kidsworx (kids 10 and under) from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on July 22, and the beginning and sport categories from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The Expert, Master and Elite categories run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

The best venues to watch are at Town Plaza, outside the gazebo and in the creek near the movie theatre. As well, four out of the six lines - including some of the toughest sections - will be in Fitzsimmons Creek near the covered bridge.

Also on the schedule this year is the Canadian Open Enduro, which wraps up the festival on Sunday. It's a new event this year, with riders climbing to five timed descent and singletrack sections. There is no timing on the climbs or transitions between start lines. To take part, there is a bike inspection and timing chip pickup from 9:45 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. on Saturday, with late registration available. Time trials will be in the Magic Bike Park at the base of Blackcomb from 10 a.m. to noon.

On Sunday the amateurs start riding at 10:15 a.m., with the pro categories getting underway at 11:50 a.m.

Stage 1 is World Cup Singletrack, Ho Chi Min and Heart of Darkness.

Stage 2 is Central Scrutinizer, Treacherous Cretins, Toads of the Short Forest, Gee I Like Your Pants, Son of Mr. Green Genes and Jelly Roll Gum Drop.

Stage 3 is Grand Wazoo.

Stage 4 is Golden Boner, Roam in the Loam and Magic Trails.

Stage 5 is back up Whistler Mountain and a combination of In Deep, Little Alder, Expressway, Too Tight, Upper Angry Pirate, Lower Angry Pirate, Samurai Pizza Cat, B-Line Connector, Lower Whistler Downhill, Heart of Darkness, Lower Easy Does It, Hornet and the GLC Drops.

For more on this event and others, visit www.crankworx.com.