2016 PUMP TRACK CHALLENGE
Mitch Ropelato reclaims his crown. | Photo: Crankworx
Day seven of Crankworx Whistler action saw the local hero whip his way to the top and a former pump track dominator regain his mojo.
American Mitch Ropelato, who won the Ultimate Pump Track Challenge presented by RockShox in 2011, 2012 and 2013, stole victory from the now two-time Pump Track Challenge World Champion, Adrien Loron, with a finish so tight the pair crashed over one another in the finish coral.
“This final was sick. It was really fast. I just did a small mistake and that’s enough to lose,” said Loron, who was nevertheless thrilled to be taking home the series win.
Pump track pits two riders against one another on parallel courses designed to have the rider pump, rather than pedal, their way through. It is fast, furious and requires a certain finesse to accomplish the task, yet Ropelato barely seemed to break a sweat, coming down the track almost stone-faced he was so relaxed.
“I’m pretty excited. It was a hard day – a lot of fast people and a lot of easy spots to make mistakes. So, I just kept it clean and got to the finish line faster,” he said.
For the women, American Jill Kintner continued her reign as the woman on top of the podium for Crankworx 2016. Chasing down the Queen of Crankworx overall title, her smile seemed to grow by a mile after the late-night win, which takes some of the pressure off by strengthening her lead.
“All anyone ever talks about is I have to gather as many points as I can get. I have (Dual) Slalom tomorrow, but this was pretty good too,” she said, with a small laugh. Dual Slalom is by far the Bellingham athlete’s strongest event, although she has won the Crankworx pump track competitions nearly as many times, including all three this year.
From Dual Slalom practice to whip-off to pump track time trials and finally the main show, the day was action-packed making victory that much sweeter.
“I feel great. It was like the biggest day ever,” said Kintner, who was also named Pump Track Challenge Series winner.
Pump Track Challenge Winners:
1. Mitch ROPELATO (USA)
2. Adrien LORON (FRA)
3. Tomas LEMOINE (FRA)
1. Jill KINTNER (USA)
2. Anneke BEERTEN (NED)
3. Manon CARPENTER (GBR)
2016 WHIP-OFF WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Finn Isles shows the crowd the business end of his bike. | Photo: Crankworx
If there is one competition where Kintner is never on top, however, it is the whip-off and the woman who owns the event, Revelstoke, British Columbia’s Casey Brown, maintained her stranglehold in the Official Whip-Off World Championships presented by SPANK in the first competition of the day.
Even though she is undefeated in the discipline in its three year history—international events included—Brown had to fight for this win, although this time against Mother Nature.
“I was catching the trade winds on my bicycle. It was a bit scary,” said Brown. “It was good. Everyone was kind of concerned about the wind, but we just kind of got through it and learned to whip in the wind.”
A whip sees the rider twist the bike to a 45-degree angle in the air off a jump before returning to a straight position for the landing, and it was the local hero’s turn to return to the top for the men. Crowd favourite, 16-year-old Finn Iles, blew the judges away with a whip which simply couldn’t denied.
Iles was too young to compete when he first won the event two years ago, and earned an entry through groundswell of social media support pleading to let him in with the hashtag #LetFinnIn. He has since signed with Red Bull and is racing the UCI World Cup downhill circuit with sensational results. But a win at home is always a great victory.
“The vibe was pretty incredible. There were so many people here it was ridiculous. You could barely get up the hill and there were people swarming the track. It was pretty sick. It was the best one I’ve been to so far,” said Iles, who judged rather than compete in 2015, due to injury.
2016 Whip-Off World Chamionships Results
1. Finn ILES (CAN)
2. Thomas VANDERHAM (CAN)
3. Allan COOKE (USA)
1. Casey BROWN (CAN)
2. Lorraine BLANCHER (CAN)
3. Jaime HILL (CAN)
2016 AIR DH
Bas Van Steenbergen made sure the track was squeaky clean with all that scrubbing. | Photo: Crankworx
Bas Van Steenbergen redefined the meaning of the word in the “hot seat” on Wednesday at Crankworx, sweating out 30 full runs in first spot, from the top downhill racers in the world, to win the Fox Air DH.
Temperatures are soaring in the mountains, leaving the courses hot, dry, dusty and rutty for the 10-day festival as Whistler plays host to 1200 riders and 130,000 spectators.
“That was nerve-wracking; it wasn’t the greatest. I would rather have dropped in a little bit earlier next time,” said Van Steenbergen, who lives and trains in Kelowna, B.C.
Like many of the racers who grew up in the Crankworx scene, he has put in his time, making the pilgrimage to Whistler to race for the last six years. This was his top Crankworx result.
“I got a fourth in Les Gets in Speed & Style and then a fourth here in Speed & Style, but this is definitely the highlight,” he said, sweat pouring down his brow under the blazing sun in the finish corral.
Van Steenbergen and his older brother, Tom, gave the crowds quite the show just four days before during the first live broadcast event of the festival. Tom nailed the first double backflip in Dual Speed & Style history to achieve received the first perfect 100 ever awarded in the judged sport, which sees the riders races the clock and another competitor, while delivering freestyle tricks along the course.
The Fox Air DH is one of three downhill races at Crankworx and American Jill Kintner made her star shine a little brighter after bringing in her fourth win in the event, and moving her ever-closer to securing the 2016 Queen of the Crankworx title. The title is bestowed on the athlete who accrues the most points for out-competing the field in all disciplines on all levels, and Kintner has enjoyed a strong lead all week.
“This was my main objective for the year. I didn’t do World Cup and I’ve kind of been on the Crankworx program. For me, it just seems like it makes more sense to be spending your resources in three stops instead of a World Tour. You get so much more media coverage. You get four days of racing in a row. I don’t know, you just get more back as an athlete and it’s just a good program—fun atmosphere,” said Kintner.
Owing to the fast practice times, Kintner opted to race on a trail bike, rather than a downhill bike, and said the decision made for a sketchier ride, but may have bought her a valuable few seconds.
“I felt fast, but it’s definitely hard to control your speed and you overshoot a lot of things. So I had to really scrub the jumps, and I had to time everything perfectly,” she said.
2016 Air DH Results
1. Bas VAN STEENBERGEN (CAN) - Kelowna 4:04.02
2. Harry HEATH (GBR) 4:05.01
3. Mick HANNAH (AUS) 4:05.74
1. Jill Kintner (USA) – Bellingham, USA 4:22.74
2. Tracey Hannah (AUS) – 4:26.62
3. Vaea Verbeeck (CAN) – North Vancouver 4:27.76