The notion of “hometown” is a funny thing. I grew up in the province of Alberta, but I never really felt like I had a true hometown until I moved to Whistler years ago. Whistler, British Columbia is not only the host (thanks to the illustrious Crankworx festival) of the sixth Enduro World Series stop of 2015, it’s also my hood. Whistler is where my community is and it’s where I feel the most like I’m exactly where I belong. Our mountain bike community is massive (Whistler is home to the biggest bike club in the world – the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association) and locals here absolutely shred both in summer and in winter. Amidst the terrible, grinding climbs we have to ride to get anywhere worth riding down is an area full of history, variety and a ton of challenge. I took a little rip up to the Top Of The World trail in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park the other day to give a taste of what’s in store for those of you who aren’t from around these parts.
Every time I take visitors riding around my favourite trails in town, I feel obligated to warn them about impending discomfort. While the Whistler Mountain Bike Park is a carefully manicured network of hero terrain (my favourite!), our valley is peppered with some of the most technical, steep terrain you can find anywhere in the world. When I first started riding my trail bike more than my big bike years ago, I was rudely awakened by the skill set I realized I needed to develop to survive around here. The bike park is gnarly because it’s fast, which increases the consequence of crashing significantly – the Whistler valley is gnarly because it’s the real deal – we do have mellower options like the Lost Lake trails, Danimal North and others, but we have mostly rough, rooty and rocky singletrack all over town. I’m still working on my skills on these trails after all these years and I really doubt I’ll ever have these trails totally dialed in my lifetime.
In 2014, I watched the EWS at Crankworx from the sidelines with a cast on my wrist. I remember watching stages of the race that put real fear into me – even though these are trails right outside my back door. I guess that’s kind of a point worth raising, and one I’ve been discussing with folks around here lately. For the most part, the idea of “home town advantage” in Whistler is tricky. While there are a few trails in this weekend’s EWS race that I’ll know a bit better than riders who don’t live here, it’s impossible to know every trail in this town like the back of your hand. Most rides take a couple of hours to get 1-2 trails in and because the climbing is so steep and physical, it’s a real challenge to fit in more time in the saddle than that on any given day. After yesterday’s course announcement, it looks like we’re getting a big dose of everything. Most of us are relieved that Crankzilla 2014 won’t be repeated, but it is pretty clear that the bulk of the racing at this stop of the EWS will happen on the stages. This Sunday won’t be about who can handle the transitions (because so many are lift-accessed) – it’ll be about who can hurt the most between the timing eyes.
How have I been preparing for this notoriously massive race (and week)? Well, it’s been challenging to find time to ride at home as much as I’d like to because of super-rad media projects on the go these days (don’t forget to check out the SRAM Pop-Up store in the Whistler Village during Crankworx AND the Dirt Diaries video contest on Tuesday, August 11 in Whistler’s Olympic Plaza), but I have a few tricks:
If you’re not coming out to Whistler to be a part of the Crankworx gong show in the next days, you should start planning a trip for another time. If you are lucky enough to be joining us on race day on August 9th or you plan on attending other events in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park between the 8th and 16th, get rested up! It was just announced that the Creekside Gondola will be running for biking traffic for the first time EVER starting on August 7th (this is VERY exciting news), the Brandon Semenuk/Brett Rheeder saga will continue on the 15th at Redbull Joyride and the world will be watching my awesome hometown in a celebration of all things mountain bike. Heck yes.
If you're going to be in Whistler for Crankworx, come ride with us on Tuesday! We'll do some yoga, eat some food, and ride bikes. See you in Whistler!