Although pump tracks have gained a lot of traction in recent years, pump track competitions are still a rarity in the bike world. The Ultimate Pumptrack Challenge, new to Crankworx this year, was as much a test as it was a contest, trying a new format on a group of riders who were game to take on the new course at the top of the Boneyard.
The middle of the course was a wood platform, with riders lining up in opposite directions - hands raised and their bikes balanced between their knees. When the start was signaled they jumped on their pedals and attacked the course counter-clockwise, pumping their arms and legs around six big berms and a series of bumps for one lap. At the end of the lap they would jump back onto the platform to stop the timer, with riders often finishing fractions of a second apart. It was a single elimination format, with the winner of each heat advancing to the next round.
Other events might be based on time over a certain number of laps, or pursuit competitions where riders start at opposite ends of the course and try to chase each other down. However, most riders liked the experience of racing head to head.
Mitchel Ropelato won the pro men's category. He made a mistake on one of the bump sections, but luckily his opponent Danny Hart made an even bigger one, and Ropelato hopped onto the finish platform with a 1.19 second buffer.
Ropelato says he spends a few hours every day in a backyard pump track, "but I wouldn't call that training," he laughed. "I go into the backyard, turn on the flood lights and my buddies will show up and we'll go for two hours. You can call that training, but it just feels like fun to me."
Ropelato liked the format and the Whistler track and says his goal is to get to every pump track contest out there.
Other riders in the top four were Austin Aldrich and Brendan Fairclough, with Aldrich taking the small final to place third. Whistler's Nick Geddes made it through the first round but had a bad start in the Round of 16 that he couldn't make up on course. Dylan Wolsky had the bad luck of drawing World Cup racer Jared Rando in the first round but made it close.
On the women's side the win belonged to Jill Kintner, a top American dual slalom and downhill racer who seemed to know her way around the pump track. She bested the North Shore's Micayla Gatto in the final by 1.82 seconds.
"My buddy down the street built a pump track in his backyard, and last year I probably spent a couple of hours a day placing around on the track," she said.
"This was pretty tight. We didn't know what the format was going to be until the riders' meeting so it was the same for everybody, and I thought it was good. There was no room for error."
Fionn Griffths of the U.K. edged out French rider Emmeline Ragot by just 0.09 seconds in the small final. Whistler riders Dawn Cashen and Rebecca McQueen also made it through the qualifier but didn't get past the quarter-final.