Chris Kovarik is not a builder. He'd be the first to admit it: spending time with a shovel in hand would take away from the focus required to be the fastest racer in the world. Would we recognize The Karver as an icon of downhill if he’d spent his formative years building jumps rather than finding new ways to inflict terror on rock gardens? This raises an obvious question in any viewer's mind - why is Kovarik in a movie about trail building?
| I've been coming to Whistler since 2005, but it's been more of a home since marrying my wife Claire. Whistler has given a lot of people - not just riders - the opportunity to create a lifestyle, whether it be work, filming, or riding to hone their skills. It's produced a lot of talent and is helping the industry in a ton of ways. It's been the benchmark for events with Crankworx, and for building with the bike park's trails. The variety of trails right on our doorstep, the trails in and outside of the park, are some of the most hardcore trails I've ever ridden. The friends I have here and the lifestyle I can lead, have helped me do what I love a hell of a lot more. |
Kovarik became a household name after winning the 2002 Fort William World Cup by an astonishing 14.3 seconds. In a sport where margins of victories can be smaller than the difference between rear axle ‘standards,’ this was domination on an entirely different level. Kovarik is a four-time Australian National DH Champion: 2000, ’01, ’02, and '10, and won three World Cups by age 24: Mont-Sainte-Anne in 2001; Fort William and Maribor in 2002. One wonders what could have been were it not for a catastrophic motorcycle injury. The crash shattered Kovarik’s ankle and tibia, keeping him off the bike for seven months, and erasing his 2004 season. A comeback win at the 2006 World Cup in Mont-Sainte-Anne was his fourth, final, and most sweetly vindictive win.
Kovarik, 37, is soft spoken, seemingly at odds with his heavy metal and drifting persona. He lives in Whistler during the summer, coaching and racing with his wife, fellow Intense team pro racer Claire Buchar. The riding you see in Kovarik's Summer of Summit videos
is nothing like a race run for him. Gone are the flashy drifts and doubles; he keeps his body centred on the bike - so strong as to be virtually motionless - there is no wasted movement, he's the antithesis to Sam Blenkinsop's wild style. He races like he coaches, with an emphasis on teaching his pupils to find the straightest and fastest line down the mountain. Kovarik’s mentorship has influenced Whip Off World Champion Finn Iles, his brother Jack, and 12 year old phenom Seth Sherlock, possibly Canada's next great racers.
The stereotypical view of Whistler as a paradise of endless perfectly sculpted jumps and corners is only partially true, it also has some of the roughest, fastest, and most technical trails in the world. It really is the perfect training ground for any rider at any skill level. For Builder I wanted to show how the Whistler Trail Crew operates, and to hopefully take you inside Kovarik’s head during a race run. What separates the fastest riders in the world from all the rest? Endless repetition of bike handling skills and an ability to ignore the basic instinct of self-preservation.
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