Crankworx is ostensibly a 10-day festival, but Crankworx Events Inc. general manager Darren Kinnaird said this year's event felt like it was longer.
"It was incredible. It seemed like the Monday before Crankworx even started this year, you could really feel the vibe," he said of the mountain-biking mecca, which ran from Aug. 12 to 21.
The happy atmosphere was just one element that came together for organizers; Kinnaird was also pleased to avoid conflict with the UCI World Cup, so competitors weren't forced to pick events and could come out if they so desired. As well, he was thrilled to see many members of the next riding generation rip it up during Kidsworx.
As for the two other stops on the tour, Kinnaird said Rotorua, New Zealand had worked out a few of its rookie jitters in its sophomore year on the circuit, while Les Gets, France — a new venue after shifting from Les Deux Alpes — pulled things together in its first year and had a successful run.
With new venues en vogue, Crankworx will drop into some unfamiliar territory for a third consecutive year as Innsbruck, Austria will welcome riders in July, 2017 as the fourth site for the tour.
The decision-making process was one that came together fairly organically after the region was first suggested at the inaugural Rotorua event. Kinnaird said Crankworx scouted resorts in Austria, Germany and Italy before landing in Innsbruck.
"We're always looking for expansion locations... in a market where we want to be marketing Whistler in, but also locations that make sense for our existing partners," Kinnaird said. "The GAS region — Germany, Austria, Switzerland — is something that's very appealing to both."
It was an official from the German-based Cube team that initially suggested the region to Kinnaird at the Giant Toa Enduro in Rotorua, he recalled, and Crankworx quickly jumped into action to find out more.
While riders from the GAS countries didn't medal at the rates that other Crankworx host countries did (Switzerland's Emilie Siegenthaler was the lone pro rider to hit the podium, taking bronze in the dual slalom), Kinnaird is confident the region will latch on and help the Innsbruck stop grow like the other stops have.
"The mountain biking market in Germany is one of the largest in the world, but a tad more XC-focused (cross-country)," he said. "There's actually a really good underground scene for mountain biking in Innsbruck in Austria. A lot of the challenges they have there are around land ownership and trail access."
That seems to be changing for the better, Kinnaird said, as many more bike parks and trails are being built close to the city in concert with ski resorts in the area.
Discussing further expansion, Kinnaird again highlighted the importance of finding the right markets for all involved and while finding another couple landing spots would be welcomed, there's no desire to shoehorn the festival into a spot where it wouldn't fit.
"If areas approach us and make sense, we'll explore them. There's no 'Should we have six festivals and it doesn't matter where they are?' We want to be more strategic about it," he said.
He also stressed the quality of riding is another major factor in the decision.
Kintner, Slavik crowned
The two Crankworx World Tour royals took different paths to victory.
American Jill Kintner entered the festival with a healthy lead, one she only extended in taking the crown with victories in the Fox Air DH, Ultimate Pump Track Challenge and Giant Dual Slalom. She officially clinched the title and a $25,000 prize after her third win.
The Bellingham resident wrapped the year with 1380 points, well ahead of Canadian Casey Brown's 890. She had entered Crankworx with a 315-point cushion on the Revelstoke rider.
Kintner packed her days with training for different events in an effort to perform her best in each. Her goal was to have the title in hand before the Canadian Open DH, as if she needed to race it, she wouldn't have had time to practice for it.
"It all came together here at the end," Kintner said. "There's so much going on, so to hold the spear and to get a cheque for 25-grand is a pretty good, worthwhile adventure."
On the men's side, Czech Republic's Tomas Slavik trailed Frenchman Adrien Loron by just 40 points coming in, but made up the difference with a dual slalom win and fourth-place on the pump track. The latter event is the only event in which Loron earned points and he fell to third overall behind Kiwi Sam Blenkinsop.
While Kintner controlled her destiny, Slavik had to wait and see how Blenkinsop fared at the Canadian Open DH on Aug.20. When the New Zealander finished out of the top four, the Czech rider was crowned.
"The hardest part was the 30 minutes before we knew who was the King of Crankworx. I was just standing with Blenky at the bottom watching the DH guys going down the hill. We were counting numbers and waiting to see what was going to happen," Slavik said. "All the stress is gone and it's a big relief."