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Ropelato, Verbeeck crowned in Whistler

Brosnan, Hannah repeat as Canadian Open DH champs

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When it came to the journeys of the eventual King and Queen of Crankworx, the two winners' journeys couldn't have been more different.

On the women's side, Canadian Vaea Verbeeck entered the Whistler festival with a healthy lead over American Kialani Hines and Anneke Beerten of the Netherlands in the overall standings as that order remained the same when the dust settled on Aug. 18.

After coming out like gangbusters at the Rotorua and Innsbruck stops, the Whistler week was relatively quiet for Verbeeck as her lone two medals were bronze in the Garbanzo DH and the 100% Dual Slalom. Still, it was more than enough to hold on for her $20,000 prize.

"It feels unreal. It was obviously looking good with the good advantage coming in for me this week," she said of her initial 94-point advantage on Hines that ballooned to 130 points by the end. "It always blows my mind that I won the overall at Crankworx. I'm definitely super happy."

Verbeeck acknowledged feeling disappointed after crashing in the Air DH, as she'd set her sights on gold there, but everything still worked out. Verbeeck's win was confirmed at the Rock Shox Ultimate Pump Track Challenge on Thursday, meaning she raced the Canadian Open DH on Aug. 18 with a clear mind.

"I actually got sick the day after I knew because the stress was gone," she said. "It's nice to end it on a fun note racing DH for fun."

As for the men, American Mitch Ropelato was seventh and a full 150 points back of leader Tomas Lemoine of France when the week began. When it ended, he had catapulted himself up the standings ahead of Frenchmen Adrien Loron and Lemoine, who took second and third, respectively.

It was a stunning week for Ropelato, who won the Garbanzo DH, the 100% Dual Slalom and the CLIF Speed & Style while also placing second in the Air DH.

"I'm stoked it all worked out. It's one of those things where you're not sure until you get going. About halfway through, I was like, 'Oh, this might be possible,' and I made it happen," he said.

Ropelato acknowledged that once he moved into the lead and was the prey, not the predator, that he started to feel some pressure. The Speed & Style, especially, was "super stressful," though it didn't show as he blazed past trickster Lemoine for the win.

"It was pretty stressful towards the end. I was starting to put a lot of pressure on myself. It started out to just have fun, then it was like, 'We can do this,' and then it's, 'No, we're going to do this,'" he said.

In Sunday's action on course, Tracey Hannah rolled to her fourth consecutive Canadian Open DH win. It also continued another streak for Hannah, as she won the cornerstone downhill races at all three Crankworx stops, entitling her to a $5,000 bonus on top of her $5,000 race prize. Hannah also captured the world tour title.

"I love racing Crankworx. That's the main thing," she said. "This track is not too long, not too pedally. It's a really fun track."

Hannah has enjoyed a several-second gaps between herself and the field in the past, but the chasm closed this year as Austrian junior Valentina Holl was 0.6 seconds back and France's Myriam Nicole was 0.63 seconds off the pace.

"I knew it was going to be close," she said. "Everyone was going to push."

On the men's side, one-time Whistler resident Troy Brosnan, also of Australia, brought home his fifth victory in a row in this event, besting American Bruce Klein by 1.52 seconds and Canadian Kirk McDowall by 2.78 seconds.

"It feels amazing. It was one thing to go three in a row, and then even four, but five is just next level," he said. "I was feeling good all week on the track. It's a good race to win right before World Championships coming up [in Mont-Ste-Anne, Que.] in a couple weeks."

McDowall, whose parents own property on Blackcomb Mountain, said he was overjoyed to hit the podium for the first time in his summer backyard.

"I spend a lot of time here in the summer, of course, and do a lot of training on that course," he said. "I've been doing this race for a long time and for the first time, I'm finally getting on that podium."

McDowall added that he changed his strategy to practice less this year as the little bit of reverse psychology seemed to work.

"I did two runs and felt like I could race it," he said. "I would back off and go slower [in the past.]"

Meanwhile, New Zealand's Brook MacDonald claimed the world tour championship after winning the downhills in both Rotorua and Innsbruck. The Whistler stop didn't go as planned as he rolled to an eighth-place finish, but MacDonald was still pleased to claim his prize.

"It would have been nice to either win today or be on the podium, but it's pretty tough coming here and racing Troy and those boys," he said. "I'm pretty happy with taking the overall."

In the amateur categories, winners were: Austin Jewett of the United States (junior male 17-to-18); Gracey Hemstreet of Canada (junior female 13-to-18); Pemberton's Lucas Cruz (junior male expert); Norway's Mille Johnset (junior female expert); Brazil's Wallace Miranda (master amateur male 30-to-39); Great Britain's James Thompson (senior amateur male 20-to-29); Canada's Robert Venables (veteran amateur male 40-plus); Pemberton's Tegan Cruz (youth male 13-to-14); and Tristan Lemire of Canada (youth male 15-to-16).

Locals who hit the podium were: Max Grayston (third in senior amateur male 20-to-29); Ryan Griffith (second in youth male 13-to-14); and Jackson Goldstone and Jakob Jewett of Squamish (second and third, respectively, in youth male 15-to-16).

For complete results, visit www.crankworx.com.

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