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Strait to the top of the podium

Crankworx Wrap: American rider beats out Watts for Dual Speed & Style win

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Veteran rider Kyle Strait added to his Crankworx resumé on Saturday, Aug. 9, with a victory in the CLIF Bar Dual Speed & Style, beating out fellow American Greg Watts in the head-to-head final.

Ryan Howard defeated Barry Nobles in the small final for third place to make it an all-California podium in the hybrid freestyle-race contest.

Strait beat Watts to the line in the first round of the big final, and also took the trick bonus thanks to an Indian Air on the first jump. Watts went with a bar spin and backflip for his tricks on Run 2, beating Strait to the line by four-hundredths of a second, but it wasn't enough to overcome the first-run deficit.

"All day the blue course has been a lot faster, so I made sure I got as much time as possible on that side," said Strait, who rode the blue side first in his battle with Watts. "Then on the other side, I tried to see what he was doing on each jump and hoped I'd be close enough for the victory."

Strait, who notched his first Crankworx podium at the inaugural festival in 2004, took home $3,000 for the win.

BERKENPAS REPEATS in fat tire crit

Crankworx kicked off with some familiar faces taking top spots in the pro women's Fat Tire Crit, while the men provided an exciting finish at Whistler Olympic Plaza as well on Friday, Aug. 8.

Jean Ann Berkenpas repeated as champ on the 800-metre loop course, reaching the finish line first after a 15-minute plus three-lap race.

"It's always kind of special... to win the opening event," said Berkenpas.

"It's always a bit harder the second time because you're a bit more marked, so I was really happy to take it again."

To earn the victory, Berkenpas outlasted past RBC GranFondo Whistler winner Leah Guloien, who finished second, and Whistler's own Chloe Cross, who placed third.

"It was amazing to hear them all," Cross said, of the many fans cheering her on during Friday's race. "I've been on the road racing a little bit, being the girl from out of town and hearing all the cheering for everybody else from their hometown crowd. It's really, really nice to have it for me."

Craig Richey edged 2014 BC Bike Race winner Kris Sneddon on the final lap for the pro men's title, while Spencer Paxson placed third.

"It's really hard to pass on the last lap, so you just have to stay on the gas," said Richey.

FINN'S IN, PASTRANA TOO?

Whistler's Finn Iles, 14, will be competing in the Official Whip-Off World Championships on Thursday, Aug. 14, after a social media push helped lead to a special exemption.

The hashtag #LetFinnIn took off last week, gaining support from some notable local riders like Adam Billinghurst — whose Instagram post vouching for Iles garnered hundreds of likes — Katrina Strand and others.

Crankworx officials announced Iles's spot in the event on Monday, Aug. 11. He will join several pros and some last-minute qualifiers on Crabapple Hits on Thursday. Also Thursday, the Ultimate Pump Track Challenge goes at 8 p.m. in Whistler Olympic Plaza.

Officials have also announced that motocross legend Travis Pastrana may compete in both Thursday events.

On Friday, Aug. 15, there's the Canadian Open XC race in the morning, followed by the Giant Dual Slalom in the afternoon.

The Fox Air DH finished after press time on Wednesday, Aug. 13, but there's more downhill racing to come on Sunday, Aug. 17, when Crankworx closes with the Canadian Open DH.

Of course, the biggest event of the festival comes Saturday night, Aug. 16, with Red Bull Joyride getting going at the base of the bike park at 5 p.m. Get to the signature slopestyle contest early to make sure you grab a good spot to view the action.

Find all competition and live webcast details at www.crankworx.com.

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