Impossible to Ignore

Bernardo Cruz takes it well past 90 degrees at the inaugural Crankworx whip-off in 2011—a stylish way to kick off one of mountain biking’s most stylish events.

Impossible to Ignore - The Humble Beginnings of the Official Whip-Off World Championship

Beer-chugging, shirtless fans scream at bikers flying over their heads, kids dangle from every nearby tree, and more than a few people hold cardboard signs plastered with derogatory “encouragement.”

The scene is loose—in the best sense possible—and it seems impossible such an event could ever be dubbed “official.”

But it is. And not only that, it’s one of the highlights of the Crankworx world tour in Whistler, the world’s largest mountain biking event. This is the Official Whip-Off World Championship, and the madness means it is just another normal year.

Its wild nature aside, the event’s origins are humble—it spawned from simply another crazy idea a few mountain bikers had: to hold a best trick contest in the middle of a downhill race.

The whip-offs’ origins were less unofficial, more impromptu. In 2003, at a NORBA race in Durango, CO, Sven Martin had an idea to better utilize one of the few jumps on the course. He was sitting out with a broken wrist at the time, and this was somewhere in the middle of his waning race career and budding photography career.

“There was a kicker jump three-quarters of the way down the course,” Sven says. “It was the only jump you could get stylish off on the track, so we decided for the pro qualifier we’d have people try and throw something mid-race run. It didn’t affect points, [it was] just for the seeding run, but the riders would judge best trick.”

So Sven hustled up some worthwhile prizes from sponsors, along with a little cash, and it was on (although still very much unofficial). Andrew Neethling won it with a heel clicker—he was running SPD shoes.

The inaugural Crankworx whip-off wouldn’t happen until 2011. That year, the infamous Crabapple hits were resurrected, turned from sketchy singletrack takeoffs and rock-strewn landings to manicured tables the width of a mini-excavator. When Crankworx rolled around that summer, 10-person “super trains” of back-to-back riders quickly became the norm on these freshly minted jumps. Sven saw the same opportunity he’d seen in Durango, but even better. This spontaneous gathering provided a platform for an event that was not only a good time, but was also uniquely inclusive.

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