Kyleigh competing in Whistler. Photo Katie Lozancich

Stewart lands top 20 finish 

This year Sun Peaks was represented in both in and out of competition at Crankworx, the annual biking event held in Whistler, B.C.

“It is the pinnacle of biking. If you’re in the slopestyle world and you’re riding at Crankworx you’re riding the biggest event of the year,”said Sun Peaks resident Andrew Helton, an eight-time Crankworx attendee. 

After first attending the annual competition in 2012, Helton has gone from a spectator to founding member of the chainsaw mafia—a group of friends who walk around revving chainsaws and getting the crowd excited.

“On Heckler’s Rock there was always chainsaws and Heckler’s Rock is not a thing anymore but there was always chainsaws there. So then when I went, I thought I was just joining in with the crew, but there was no other chainsaws that first year,” he said.

The following year his friends joined him with chainless saws and would walk through the sea of people revving the machines.

“You walk into anywhere and fire up a saw and start revving it, if the energy is up people are going to get up on it.”

Emma Christy, attending the event for her second year, said the event can be overwhelming with the level of energy created from hundreds of thousands of spectators.

“This is my second year and last year I didn’t bike… but even last year going as someone outside of the biking community seeing how excited everyone got,the stoke was so high, and regardless of who you were and what you were doing there everyone was so excited,” she said.

Both Helton and Christy agreed the event does a great job of being spectator friendly with opportunities everywhere you go to watch the athletes compete.

“There’s 100,000 people just at the bottom and screaming and hootin’ and hollering and that scene is just insane. There’s nowhere else in mountain biking you get that spectatorship,” said Heltron.

Credit: Fraser Britton / Crankworx 2019

No stranger to the annual Crankworx competition herself, local competitor Kyleigh Stewart brought home a top 20 finish in the pro-women division at this year’s event which ran Aug. 9 to 18. Having competed in at the event for the past five years, Stewart chose to enter the Air DH contest as a pro and finished 18th overall with a time of 4:33.8.

“I was pretty happy,” she said. “I got 18th in pro-women which (was) pretty tight times and I look at some of the women I beat and I’m pretty stoked on that. There’s some pretty big names that I was close to or even beat, that feels really good.”

But the contest wasn’t all smooth sailing for Stewart who commented she wasn’t feeling confident heading into the event as she hadn’t ridden the course in a year.

She headed out the night before to get a few laps in and get a bit more confident on her trail bike.

“Once I got a couple runs on that I was starting to feel a bit more comfortable and calm down a little bit,” she said. “At the end of the day there was no pressure on me compared to some of these top pro women so I said, have fun, if it works out, it works out. If it doesn’t, whatever as long as it was fun.”

Stewart focused on pedalling as hard as she could and tried to not overshoot the jumps. She noted her 29-inch wheels were a slight advantage, rolling fast along the cruisey trail.

“It came down to who could pedal the hardest I think, for the four minutes or whatever it was, and so there’s a lot of good results from enduro riders. They suited the fitness aspect of it.”

Along with the Air DH competition Stewart also participated in the Deep Summer Photo contest, an event which gives competitors three days to create a photo slideshow which tells a story of riding.

“We did the first day in Pemberton and then the first half of the second day in Pemberton so we camped overnight. Saturday, Sunday was bike park stuff,” said Stewart.

With only the winner announced she said she’d like to believe her project would be in the top three but regardless of results was happy with the time and effort her team put in. As a returning athlete Stewart described the week-long event as inclusive with activities for everyone including races, trail rides,and workshops.

“For some people, it’s their big event of the year and they’re super serious about it, but for most people, I would say it’s more just about having fun. The atmosphere at the event is pretty good,”she stated. “Everyone’s just trying to have a good time everyone’s talking at the top of the race, it’s pretty laid back which is nice.”

For now, Stewart’s competitive season has come to a close to focus on the start of the school year but she has plans to travel to Australia to enter the Cannonball Mountain Bike Festival at Thredbo Resort Dec. 4 to 8.

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