One could argue the races for the King and Queen of Crankworx titles ended up being a little bit anticlimactic.
As it turned out, eventual Queen of Crankworx Jill Kintner earned enough points in the World Tour's first three stops in Rotorua, New Zealand, Innsbruck, Austria and Les Gets, France, that she'd have still won even if she had been shut out in Whistler. Of course, being the most-decorated Crankworx athlete, Kintner took home a gold and two silvers to boost her overall total to 1,515 points, easily besting two Canadians in Casey Brown (1,090) and Vaea Verbeeck (880) to earn the $20,000 prize.
Some changes to the formula, like giving extra points in the enduro events, benefitted Brown and would seemingly hinder Kintner, but the 2008 Olympic BMX bronze medallist pulled through with one of her most dominating seasons yet.
"It takes the best support, the best parts, the best training and on back-to-back days, you've got to be on it," she said. "Every year it gets closer competition, so every event, I'll have a couple people real close so you've got to be perfect."
Kintner took three wins in Rotorua to get the season off to a great start, earning 565 points all told. Kialani Hines, the fourth-place finisher in the Queen chase, earned 520 points all season.
"This year went super well and last year (in Rotorua), I had a shoulder dislocation and I had to keep going, and it was 'Second, second,' so to get three wins and a third and a fifth in the first one, how are you going to top that one?" she said.
Kintner sees winning titles like this as fulfilling her mission to help grow the sport with the next generation. In addition to signing autographs and taking photos with fans, Kintner also gives away the novelty cheques and even the medals she earns along the way.
"I don't actually like personal attention; I like to do my best and have my best results," she said. "I like to give back to other people and share it with them, because all these experiences are so much better shared."
While the men's side was slightly more interesting, as France's Tomas Lemoine cut the cushion of New Zealand's Sam Blenkinsop from 190 points entering Whistler to a winning margin of 125 points, the race lacked the intensity of prior years, like when Great Britain's Bernard Kerr held off a late charge from France's Adrien Loron in 2015, Blenkinsop's furious chase of Czech Republic's Tomas Slavik in 2016, or Loron's dogged determination to finally secure the crown in 2017, going out-of-discipline to win the Fox Air DH.
Like Kintner, Blenkinsop got his nest egg sorted out early, taking two victories en route to banking 500 total points in Rotorua. With not all stops created equal—riders can earn points in more events in Whistler and Rotorua than at the European stops—he's considering diversifying next year to try to defend his title.
"I thought, 'I got some good points, I'm leading, I may as well do the rest of the Crankworx events. It's always hard for us when you go to Innsbruck because there's only one downhill event," Blenkinsop said. "I should have maybe tried pump track or something, but that's something to think about for next year that might be something cool to learn."
Both winners were especially proud of one another, as they ride for the same team.
"It's cool to be King of Crankworx and it's cool because Jill's the Queen, so it's cool for Norco," he said. "Adrien got it last year with Jill, so it's cool to keep it in-house."