The Whistler stop on the EWS circuit needs no introduction... okay, maybe a tiny bit of one. The EWS has been held here for a number of years but its previous incarnation - pre the dawning of the EWS - goes back to 2009 when the likes of Anne Caroline Chausson and Brian Lopes were leading the way. Now held as the event opener for the week-long Crankworx Whistler extravaganza, we get to see the race broadcast live too. All the racing is held on one day, so it’s going to be an intense day in the saddle for the riders, and one where the stages are going to be stacked full of the Whistler crowd cheering the riders on.
With Sam Hill and Cecile Ravanel keeping their respective competition at bay, it may seem like it’s going to be a fairly straightforward affair. The spirits in Whistler may have other plans though, and the familiar trails with their epic backdrop across the British Columbia’s Coast Range may have a few surprises for this round.
So bring on another legendary race in Whistler, bring on Crankworx Whistler EWS.
EWS Whistler will consist of five stages over various Whistler Bike Park trails and forested singletrack in the Whistler Valley. The tracks will be mostly steep, technical and challenging with stage 1 on Micro Climate, stage 2 on Crazy Train, stage 3 on Delayed Fuse to BC’s Trail, stage 4 on Heavy Flow to Hind Sight to Lower Tunnel Vision, and stage 5 on Top of the World to No Joke to Drop In Clinic to No Joke to Little Alder to Expressway to Too Tight to Upper and Lower Angry Pirate to Samurai Pizza Cat to Afternoon Delight to Longhorn to Monkey Hands.
What Happened At The Last Round
Enter changeable weather conditions and a headache for race organisers. Enter La Thuile, Italy. The last round of the EWS was a bit of a complicated affair in terms or reorganising stages thanks to the bad weather forecast on the race days. Although the race length was the same on the second day, stage 5 was cut from the running, and instead stage 6 was raced twice.
In the Pro Women’s race, yet again Cecile Ravanel continued to dominate, with Isabeau Courdurier in hot pursuit. Ines Thoma and Melanie Pugin would compete for third spot but a crash and a subsequent mechanical on stage 4 for Pugin would mean Thoma would breeze into third spot.
Over in the Elite Men’s race, it was Martin Maes who was turning the dial up in the competition stakes, with Eddie Masters not too far behind. Spotting the competition was getting a little too close for comfort, Hill pushed on to take all three stage wins on the first day. Had that effort been too much for the older Australian against his younger rival? On the second day, Maes began to catch up but he wasn’t able to pull in enough vital seconds, especially on stage 6, and Hill would eventually go on to win the overall race, with Maes coming in second, and Masters in third.
Top five individual rider points are awarded as follows. A full rundown of points is available in the EWS Rulebook
• 1st = 500 points (Men) // 400 points (Women)
• 2nd = 450 points (Men) // 350 points (Women)
• 3rd = 420 points (Men) // 320 points (Women)
• 4th = 400 points (Men) // 300 points (Women)
• 5th = 390 points (Men) // 290 points (Women)
The Weather Forecast
“It’s a sign of Sam Hill’s form when the 1,000 points he needs to nudge himself past the traditional series winning post of 3,400 points feels like a bit of a formality. Quite simply - aside from him taking himself out somehow - it’s hard to see him not winning the title, and questions like ‘can he seal it with races to spare?’ begin creeping in. With four wins from five rounds, any idea that he may try to take it a bit easier, play the long game, are dead in the water; the only sensible thing to expect of him this weekend is to come out swinging.
Pinkbike's EWS Predictionator
The way I see it, he has three main threats to deal with. First Martin Maes. While Oton may be slightly ahead of Maes in the overall, Maes has not finished a race in worse than third this year. Maes’s problem is the round he didn’t finish. I expect to see him at least keep Hill honest the whole way, even if he hasn’t yet shown the kind of form to beat Hill thus far this year. You can’t rule out last year’s EWS Whistler winner, local lad Jesse Melamed. Coming back off an injury, his fourth in La Thuile was a huge statement, even if he immediately started talking himself down from his home race. It’s hard to fault his logic, so expect to see him dial the risks down from 11 to 8.5 (well, at least unless the red mist comes down and then all bets would be off). Finally, there’s Richie Rude. His overall chances are long-dead but that just makes his position more exciting for race fans. If he shows up ready to play, I doubt even Hill can stop him. However, on recent form, that’s a big ‘if’.
By this point in the season do I need to explain once more why I think Cecile Ravanel and Isabeau Courdurier will be first and second? Where the Pro Women’s racing gets in interesting is at the third step of the podium. I stand by what I’ve said all year; that Katy Winton has the pace for third. But... Ines Thoma has been the one standing on that step for two of the last three rounds and clearly has the consistency to be there. Casey Brown will be back racing on home soil, so could upset the season regulars. If I had to call, I’d go with the numbers and as Meatloaf once said “Two Outta Three Ain’t Bad”, so Thoma for third.”
1 // Sam HILL
2 // Martin MAES
3 // Jesse MELAMED
1 // Cecile RAVANEL
2 // Isabeau COURDURIER
3 // Ines THOMA
What Happened Here Last Time Round?
With a smoky haze filling up the skies thanks to nearby forest fires threatening to jeopardize the race even going ahead, it was a blessing when the weather turned and sprinkled the ground with much-needed moisture the night before the race.
In the Pro Women’s race, we saw Cecile Ravanel continue her form into Whistler by winning every single stage. Meanwhile, Isabeau Courdurier gave it her all to gain second place ahead of Katy Winton who managed to keep Anita Gerrig at bay for third.
For the Pro Men’s field, things were slightly less predictable. Despite Sam Hill taking a massive early lead on stage 1, it was Jesse Melamed - hometown hero and last year’s runner-up - who clawed his way back to win stages 2, 3 and 4. Having gained a 14-second advantage by the final stage, Melamed crashed but didn’t lose much ground in the process against his closest rival Sam Hill. Hill would eventually finish second, and Mark Scott rounded off the podium with a third-place finish.
Previous Winners In Whistler
2017 // Jesse MELAMED // CAN
2016 // Richie RUDE // USA
2015 // Richie RUDE // USA
2014 // Jared GRAVES // AUS
2013 // Jared GRAVES // AUS
2012 // Jerome CLEMENTZ // FRA
2011 // Brian LOPES // USA
2010 // Remy ABSALON // FRA
2009 // Brian LOPES // USA
2017 // Cécile RAVANEL // FRA
2016 // Cécile RAVANEL // FRA
2015 // Tracy MOSELEY // GBR
2014 // Cécile RAVANEL // FRA
2013 // Anne Caroline CHAUSSON // FRA
2012 // Katrina STRAND // CAN
2011 // Anne Caroline CHAUSSON // FRA
2010 // Anne Caroline CHAUSSON // FRA
2009 // Fionn GRIFFITHS // GBR
Must Know, Must See, Must Do
Before the Europeans took the land that Whistler stands on today, the area was shared between two First Nation communities; the Sk̲wx̲wú7mesh (Squamish) and L̓il̓wat7úl (Lil'wat). For thousands of years, the two communities used the area as a rich natural larder for food and materials.
However, things changed dramatically with the invasion of hoards of Europeans on their way to find precious metals and furs. With the permission of their governments in cities thousands of miles away, they would push the indigenous communities out, dividing up the land whichever way they wanted (price dependant of course). The Sk̲wx̲wú7mesh and L̓il̓wat7úl would be rounded up into reservations while the Europeans plundered the land.
When the British Navy were out charting the coastal area and the land adjacent to it, they noted the highest peak in the area and clearly with all sorts of originality running through their veins, they named it London Mountain. The mountain would eventually change its name to Whistler Mountain, apparently on account for the scores of marmots whistling on it.
Fast forward into the early 20th century and while Europe was starting to battle it out on the fields of northern Europe in 1914, two people - Myrtle and Alex Philip - would call the shores of Alta Lake their home and establish a fishing and weekend retreat business there. They were soon followed by others trying to make their mark through leisure activities in the picturesque shadow of Whistler Mountain, and thanks to the Pacific Great Eastern railway, the tourists began arriving in their droves.
Over a hundred years later, Whistler is now the centre of all things mountain biking as well as being pretty alright in the winter months for skiing and snowboarding. Whistler was one of the main locations for the Vancouver Winter Olympics a few years ago.
If you’re in Whistler and you have a bit of time on your hands in between riding and watching other people riding (i.e. Crankworx), there’s plenty of other things to see and do. A must is to go up to the top of Whistler Mountain to get an incredible view of the Coastal Range. It’s chilly up there mind you, so don’t forget to wrap up warm. If you’re flush with cash you can get a helicopter ride up, and if you fancy riding down there’s room for your bike too. For those on foot, there’s the peak-to-peak chair which is a great experience as long as you’re not afraid of heights which is especially important if you’re lucky (or is that unlucky?) enough to get one of the gondolas with the ‘see through’ floor.
There are glacial treks, wildlife watching (I’m talking about actual wildlife not the population of the 2am dance floor in one of the many Whistler clubs) canoeing, paddle boarding, bobsleigh running (yes, the Whistler Sliding Centre is open in the summer, and the price of the ticket goes back into Whistler Sport Legacies, a not-for-profit organisation that provides access to sports for everyone of all ages and abilities), as well as plenty of museums and art galleries to visit in between the people watching in the vibrant Whistler Village.
The ScheduleFriday 10 August
• 16:00-20:00 // Training - Stage 5Saturday 11 August
• TBC // Training - Stages 1-4Sunday 12 August
• 07:00-19:30 // Race - Stages 1-5 *Live two-hour webcast starts at 17:30
• 20:00 // Awards
Pinkbike will be the place to go if you want to catch all the action from Whistler this weekend. There’ll be content from training on Friday and Saturday, and race day action recaps on Sunday.
Don’t forget, this is the only EWS race broadcast live, so tune in from 17:30 PDT, or the following times below. You can also catch the all the riders’ times as they progress through the stages on both days via the EWS live timing feature
• 20:30 // Sunday // Washington DC, USA (EDT)
• 01:30 // Monday // London, UK (BST)
• 02:30 // Monday // Berlin, Germany (CEST)
• 10:30 // Monday // Sydney, Australia (AEST)
• 12:30 // Monday // Auckland, New Zealand (NZST)