Racers Fared Better Outside Their Disciplines & Other Things We Learned at the Crankworx Summer Series

Aug 18, 2020
by James Smurthwaite  

1. Crankworx = Kidsworx

With COVID limiting the number of riders available to attend Crankworx, it was a prime opportunity for new faces to step up and announce themselves in the mountain bike world. Plenty of young riders took that opportunity.

Finn Iles, who just turned 21 since the event, was the most obvious name with his domination of the men's series across all disciplines. His success could probably have been predicted given his staggering rise since winning the Crankwrox whip off at 14 but we also saw the rise of some new faces. For example, 21-year-old Kasper Woolly, who finished second place three times in downhill and enduro events and also picked up a podium in the dual race. There was also the Norco pairing of Lucas Cruz (19) who won the Kicking Horse Dual Slalom and Henry Fitzgerald (21) who set a new course record on the legendary Psychosis downhill. Finally, Rhys Verner (23) consistently performed across every discipline and ended the Series with 5 podiums and 3rd overall.

The future is definitely bright for young BC riders.

2. Bikes Have Significantly Improved in the Past 12 Years

Ok, so maybe we knew this already but now we have some numbers to back it up thanks to the rebirth of the Psychosis race. The course was last raced in 2008 when Chris Kovarik set a new course record at 12:35.14. This year’s winning time - 11:19 by Henry Fitzgerald. In fact, all but 1 of the men who finished the course beat Kovarik's long-standing record. In the women's race, ALN won on an enduro bike and smashed Claire Buchar's winning time of 2008 by 3 and a half minutes.

Taking nothing away from the skill, fitness and commitment of the riders dropping into the Psychosis course, we now have bikes that descend and climb far better than a decade ago. On the track that results in an improvement of about 10% or 6 seconds on every minute which is an absolute gulf in a sport that's as tight and marginal as downhill racing.

3. A Lot of Racers Fared Better out of Their Primary Discipline

The beauty of Crankworx is that it brings riders from across disciplines together to compete both inside and outside their primary specialty. Across the 3 weeks of the Summer Series racers were thrown into situations way out of their depths to see if they would sink or swim.

More than anyone, it seems that the downhill riders were able to perform best out of their discipline than other disciplines. Mark Wallace's best downhill result was an 8th in the Psychosis but he finished 2nd, 4th and 6th in the 3 dual slalom events he raced. Similarly, Lucas Cruz's best dh result was 6th but podiums in both the dual races he entered showed his versatility.

The enduro racers got in on the act too with Jesse Melamed, Mckay Vezina, Remi Gauvin and Leonie Picton all doing better in non-enduro events. In fact, of the 23 athletes that raced at the Series, 11 did better in events outside their chosen discipline than in it, 7 achieved equally as high result in and out of their chosen discipline and only 5 did better in their chosen discipline than any other.
Leonie Picton riding Liv Cycling against Miranda Miller riding Kona earlier in the day.

4. We can't wait for racing to return to normal

We have nothing but respect for the tremendous job the Crankworx team did pulling together a 3-week program of racing for the Summer Series but it just made us realise how much we miss the proper mountain bike race calendar. You just can't replicate the thrill of seeing riders zipping past cheering hordes of spectators, a pit area full of new tech to gawp at and riders from around the world all coming together to find out who really the world's best.

It has been a blast seeing BC's finest battle it out but hopefully we can return to normalcy, live racing and the regular race calendar soon.



46 Comments

  • 55 1
 I initially thought this race format was silly and not necessary during the time of covid. And didn't want my local bike parts overrun with pros destroying trails and worsening lineups. But I was dead wrong. Loved the format and was glued to pinkbike and social media of all the riders watching all the fun. Bike parks handled it perfectly and there were no increased wait times or significant trail closures. Racers were respectful to locals and friendly when I ran into some at Sun Peaks. Also hilarious to see their strava times vs my PRs. To see these men and women ride in real life is insane. Great job everyone involved.
  • 9 0
 The comparison of regular riders to the pros is always what blows me away at big events. You take a fast regional rider and put them against even a top 20 world level rider and it is usually no contest even though the local racers know the trails.
  • 35 1
 Phew, super glad my parts were not overrun too!
  • 1 0
 Lmao racers destroying trails at sun peaks..... those trails have been blown out and amazing for years.
  • 22 0
 The main thing we learned is that everyone wants more of this, and Crankworx would be guaranteed to have a massive audience if they were to do a 'part-2' to the summer series. Just sayin'....
  • 26 0
 take this format and refine it for next season and do regional series around the world and then bring the king and queen from each region to Whistler for the Crankworks worlds.
  • 3 0
 @Mattysville: Possibly the greatest idea I've ever heard on Pinkbike
  • 2 0
 @foosfan: I’d like to take credit for it but I’m pretty sure it was the weed talking. #higherthoughts
  • 1 0
 @Mattysville: What geographical region has the same concentration of top talent and suitably gnarly trails? Maybe Colorado? Alps?
  • 2 0
 @CaMKii: Australia, NZ, East coast of Canada. west and east coast of USA, Columbia. thats the whole point, there are tons of fast people in every local scene who will never get a chance to leave the local scene purely because they aren't from whistler or Andora.
  • 1 1
 @CaMKii: I know you're in Vancouver so you've never had to travel anywhere else for awesome riding but you really should get out a bit. there's gnarly trails the world over and usually not filled with elitist BC bike snobs. by the way when was the last time someone from BC won a World Cup or an EWS race? The average talent level may be a bit higher in BC but the peak talent there still isn't on par with the peak talents in the world on a racing level. The only MTB discipline BC riders dominate the world in is Slopestyle.
  • 1 0
 @Mattysville: Whoa dude. Wasn't trying to be an "elitist BC bike snob", was genuinely curious. Relatively recent transplant to BC actually and have lived in the US (PNW and midwest) as well as Eastern Canada.

Unfortunately haven't personally gotten to ride anywhere else outside of BC and PNW, but would love to do more traveling. That's exactly the point though isn't it? Especially right now during the pandemic, these regional events are necessary because no one wants to encourage international travel.
  • 14 1
 Seeing all of this first hand - from absolute beginning to end, every single practice, part of the caravan of road trips, race events. this entire thing was absolutely rad. Watching riders outside their comfort zone; how they talked with eachother, sharing tips, lines, etc. it really does make me excited for the future of this sport. As James said, this series gave some of the younger kids a chance to be around more experienced riders and soak up things they wouldn't normally get to do. Lucy, Seth, Jake, Ainhoa...its just a fantastic thing for the sport.
  • 3 0
 Your photos were awesome, thank you sir!
  • 3 2
 @SquamishSucks: 3 thanks. I tried my best to bring variety to the masses
  • 12 0
 I would be interested in some split times between the old Psychosis and the new - where did the modern racers make up time - was there some/a lot on the uphill? Push an enduro bike rather than an old DH - Kovariks bike could have been 10+ lbs heavier and I would go as far to say modern racers are fitter than their predecessors. What did a 2008 Intense M1 weigh?

I am totally prepared to believe the gains are made through the length of the race run though - my current hardtail would make me faster than I would be on my old 2004 fully.
  • 3 0
 Jesse Melamed's bike in a sitting at 37lbs right now. He bolted up the hike a bike with it.
  • 4 0
 bike weight alone is less likely to be as much of a factor as rider weight and fitness (endurance, power/weight ratio...).
  • 4 1
 How about the obviously mint track conditions. Psychosis track was always blown out and drier than a popcorn fart back in the day. We had epic amount of rain this season. I feel that had more to do with the times then tech did.
  • 1 0
 My old M1 was around 45lbs.... so yeah 10lb variance sounds about right.
  • 7 0
 Re: Gauvan and Marmelade doing better outside their disciplies:


They're obviously both incredible riders so it makes sense that they'll do well.... but I'd like to see what the time gap would be between the folks like Finn who did well in the parkduros versus a true EWS style event - I have no doubt Finn would do well, but I wonder if the length of the day, lack of ability to practice, etc, really separates the amazing dh riders from the enduro specialists.
  • 1 0
 This is my first year owning a “trail” bike in almost a decade. Going out and riding new stuff all the time and trying to do it at speed has made me so much better at riding “blind”. The speed that it translates when you can get on the same DH track for a weekend and put in some solid practice and be able to spot new lines and changes in the track as the weekend progresses is amazing. The “cross training” for a DH racer of enduro or trail riding is a pretty big boost IMO.
  • 4 0
 I don't know a lot about DH races other than world cups, but I got the impression that these crankworx dh races had less practice than a uci world cup dh race. A different format, means world cup racers might have been at a disadvantage in some ways, cause they are accustomed to the routine of track walk, practice, qualification, race day. Same is true, to some extent, about other crankworx events. I think this might be partly responsible for riders doing better outside their discipline. I don't mean a different format is bad, just different to accommodate the schedule. I loved the coverage, well done crankworx organizers and athletes.
  • 1 0
 It seems a lot of the Downhill events were on the Enduro side, with the exception of Sunpeaks DH. Also its true that in DH world cups there is more time to become accustomed to the track with track walks etc, bthe big sponsors have even more support as well, so to me a DH racer that can still shine in spite of that shows true talent!
  • 4 0
 Just a few things. You misspelled Woolley(sorry if its petty). Another thing is....Rhys Verner absolutely crushed it. He beat the likes of some of the top racers and he is one to watch. Kona needs to step up and support this kid.
  • 2 0
 Yup Im starting to think unless you have a ( big ) sponsorship you don't get too much mention on here which sucks
  • 1 0
 @bikesandbeers: the majority of the article are written and posted by the sponsors. Pinkbike staff writes the weekend blogs. the only reason they even keep them around is because someone came up with a yearlong april fools joke while sitting on a hemorrhoid pillow and therefore justified the salary of the whole team for another year. #grimdonut #fakenews
  • 5 0
 If you know how to ride a bike, you don’t just forget it when you are on a different bike.
  • 4 0
 Always people and things that get left out of these articles.Makes you wonder..
Kirk McDowall was very strong and consistent with a few podiums as well! ( and 5th overall )
  • 7 3
 @mikelevy you triggered there wasn't a downcountry race baked into this broh?
  • 1 0
 Bikes are definitely better now than 12 years ago, but imagining that the difference of times in this particular case is definitive evidence of this is fairly speculative. It got us all to pay attention so I guess it works as journalism advertainment.
I still have a specialized Demo from 2009 (I believe) it is much heavier and has way different geometry than new DH bikes (as well as having 26" wheels) I would guess it would be much slower in the hands of a fast rider than a current bike.
  • 1 0
 As for #3, these DH and enduro are very competitive and for many of these athletes, primary disciplines. Few of them (if any) have dual slalom as a primary discipline so of course, whoever does well there does well outside their primary discipline. I wouldn't be surprised if an ex 4X champ like Jared Graves or Jill Kintner would still be able to beat most of them. That said, I can imagine an enduro specialist may actually be better prepared for something like that Psychosis descend than a DH racer.
  • 2 1
 The Psychosis trails must have also changed over the last 12 years. Can we really attribute most of that time difference to the bikes?
  • 5 1
 Given the amount of fall line on that trail I don't think it's changes over the years would have made it easier...
  • 8 0
 Yes the course has changed.. its gotten worse..more axle deep ruts and blown out sections of trail..
  • 1 1
 @snl1200: Good point. Maybe there has been maintenance/reroutes? I've never ridden in that part of Canada, so excuse my ignorance.

Seems hard to believe that bikes have gotten 10% faster in the last 12 years.
  • 1 0
 @slickwilly1: Although just as steep as the past years, it looked like the dead dog slope was significantly prepped for this race, as opposed to how it used to be. I could be wrong, but the consistency of the dirt looked a lot better than it did when I raced it in 05/06.
  • 6 1
 @mammal: Completely subjective, but I've been riding up there over the years and I was there riding that trail two weeks before the race, I'd say it's 'nearly' the same, some stuff rides faster, some of its much tougher and even more blown out, seen a few big cheats in the go pro coverage, but nothing that accounts for that big a difference thou. The biggest possible cheats were taped off.

Personally, because it's such a long track, I think it's cumulative, bigger wheels, better shocks, better geometry for bombing such a ripper fast trail, arguably fitter athletes and mostly the riders now have been riding bike parks since they were kids, specifically Whistler bike park. Riding endless chairlift laps from middle school age tends to generate insanely fast folks. Not something most of us older riders can say, it wasn't available to us as kids.
  • 1 0
 @mitchbike: I definitely agree that bike and rider progression made the most difference. I was simply mentioning that the steep pitch looked to have been groomed (to some extent) pre-race.
  • 2 0
 British Columbia makes this possible. Do this again in ten years and see what the young rippers can do.
  • 1 0
 I’d be interested to see and east coast vs west coast Jr’s race. US and Canada have fast youngsters on both coasts. It’s exciting watching teenagers put in Elite podium times and knowing they are all just getting faster and faster.
  • 1 0
 hold on to the memories...
  • 1 2
 Is James Smurthwaite just subbed in on slow news days to milk out every last bit of content?
  • 1 4
 I miss the slopestyle a lot more than racing thats for sure. Not even a mention of it here eh
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