Born From Carnage

Blue skies and majestic Whistler Valley views aren’t always standard during the Whistler Enduro World Series, but when conditions align, it’s epic. France’s Jerome Clementz claimed eigth place in 2017, but not without some technical maneuvers on Top of the World.

Born From Carnage The Immediately Infamous Crankzilla

Described as rough, brutal, grueling and even savage, the annual five-stage, one-day Crankworx Whistler enduro race is notorious for being one of the toughest enduro contests on the planet.

The race, now in its seventh year, crams relentless descents with sustained climbs, tinder-box heat and rootfilled tracks—all framed by the ancient Coast Mountain forests and throngs of international spectators.

It’s a maker of legends, both in terms of athletes—Jesse Melamed, Cécile Ravanel, Martin Maes, Jared Graves and Jerome Clementz—and trails, giving broader prominence to descents such as Top of the World, Microclimate and Ride Don’t Slide. It’s also one of the only races to grace the Enduro World Series (EWS) circuit every year since the venerable series began.

But when the EWS was first revving up and the inaugural Crankworx Whistler race was being established in August 2013, planners in North America were still trying to determine how to run a proper enduro race.

“Our enduro races prior to the EWS forming were a little more relaxed and fun,” says Darren Kinnaird, Crankworx World Tour general manager. “We were still learning about enduro at that point.”

The enduro race format was born in southern Europe, inspired in part by moto enduro racing. Mountain bikers in North America kept hearing about these innovative, all-mountain competitions happening in countries like Italy, but they did not understand how to replicate these races on their own soil. Initial attempts at enduro in Whistler were mass-start event —akin to cross-country races—featuring only one stage. Nothing was getting much traction.

Enter the EWS.

Chris Ball, mountain biker and prominent organizer, had been looking at forming a global series of enduro-style races he hoped would be sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the sport’s de facto governing body. He put forward a proposal that wasn’t approved. So Ball, together with Kinnaird and leading European enduro event directors Fred Glo and Enrico Guala, formed an independent global series, naming it the Enduro World Series.

The moment the EWS was launched, athletes and partners piled on board. Riders from both downhill and cross-country disciplines scrambled to sign up for the races, including the one in Whistler. Insiders were excited to see how the fledgling format would unfold on Whistler’s steep, technical terrain. Adding to the excitement was the fact that the Whistler contest was boasting the biggest prize purse offered in enduro’s short official history.

Kinnaird and Jimmi Mackintosh—who at the time was part of the sports operation team for Crankworx—designed the course, in consultation with seminal freerider Richie Schley and English Whistler transplant Seb Kemp, offering blistering timed sections down trails such as Khyber Pass, It’s Business Time, Pura Vida, Billy’s Epic and Top of the World. Organizers scrutinized that year’s enduro race at Crankworx Les 2 Alpes to learn what worked and what didn’t. It was an uphill learning curve, and no one knew how it would go.

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