Crankworx is set to kick off in the resort for a ninth year and organizers of the massive mountain bike festival are working hard to bring the world to Whistler – or perhaps the other way around.
The Crankworx brand continues to expand and proliferate, as seen with its first-ever European venture, Crankworx Les 2 Alpes, in France earlier this summer. Now on the eve of the main event, general manager Darren Kinnaird said aligning with partners like Red Bull Media House and Boombox Group has put Crankworx in a position to have a bigger online presence than ever before.
“It’s all about the content and trying to bring what’s happening here on the ground to the masses online,” said Kinnaird. “The most economical way of doing that, obviously, is through webcasting.
“(The Boombox Group) guys are world-class – they work on X Games, Dew Tour events… and having a team like that available to come to Crankworx is fantastic.”
Kinnaird said all online broadcasts will be in high definition this year, with more cameras than ever to bring signature events like the Jeep Canadian Open DH and Red Bull Joyride to viewers worldwide and “a few surprises” he wasn’t willing to spoil.
That’s all in the hope of bumping audience totals over and above last year’s impressive 270,000 unique online viewers.
“We’re hoping to push that well over the 300,000 mark. That’s the goal, or maybe even beyond that,” said Kinnaird. “The sport has become more popular and the distribution channels are greater. The World Cup is seeing a 30 to 40 per cent increase in viewership this year… and we’re hoping we enjoy the same success.
“We just want to continue to be known as the No. 1 freeride mountain bike event in the world and create an awareness of Whistler – the trails that are here to ride and the Whistler Mountain Bike Park.”
As much as Crankworx is on the cutting edge of delivering online content, it remains an innovator when it comes to competition. Kinnaird said some of that comes from athlete input and some comes from organizers, but the results always seem to be exciting events that have rarely been done before, if ever.
Look no further than the Dual Speed and Style competition presented by Avid, which will bring together the world’s top downhill and slopestyle athletes for a unique freestyle race format on Saturday (Aug. 11).
“That comes a little bit from the athletes wanting to have an event like that. Picture dual freestyle moguls skiing but on mountain bikes,” said Kinnaird. “We figure that’s going to be a massively exciting event. We hope everyone comes to check it out on the first Saturday night and hope it gives that first weekend that anchor, fun, made-for-TV sort of event.
“It’s all the best slopestyle riders and some of the best downhill racers competing head-to-head, which never happens. That’s pretty cool.”
Another new event on the schedule this year is the Official Whip-Off World Championships, taking place Tuesday morning (Aug. 14) on the bike park’s Crabapple Hits.
And while Crankworx officials work to bring more of the event to a worldwide audience, they’ve also made an effort to expand outside the bike park further this year with many events centred at Whistler Olympic Plaza.
The Fat Tire Crit returns for a second year and opens up the schedule on Friday (Aug. 10), featuring a looped course around the plaza that’s geared towards spectators.
But there’s quite a bit more scheduled for the plaza this year, with the Ultimate Pump Track Challenge presented by Rock Shox taking place there next Thursday evening (Aug. 16).
“By moving it down to Whistler Olympic Plaza, we think it will attract a much bigger audience,” said Kinnaird. “More people will have access to view it and it also gives us another way to stretch from the bike park all the way to Olympic Plaza.”
Artistic showcases like Tuesday’s Go Pro Dirt Diaries and Wednesday’s (Aug. 15) Deep Summer Photo Challenge will also be held in the plaza free of charge to spectators, with premium, ticketed seats available near big, high-definition screens up front.
Other competitions coming up in the first half of Crankworx include the four-stage Canadian Open Enduro on Saturday, the Garbanzo DH on Sunday (Aug. 12) and the Air DH on Wednesday.
Visit www.crankworx.com for a full list of events, athletes and online broadcasts.