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
3. A Lot of Racers Fared Better out of Their Primary Discipline
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.
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.
4. We can't wait for racing to return to normal
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.
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.