Joining the the women of Crankworx

Kyleigh Stewart celebrates at the top of the podium with a high five. Photo Matt Staggs

Story by Krystal Kehoe

Kyleigh Stewart started her Saturday morning by following double World and World Cup Champion Manon Carpenter into a jump line.

The 18-year-old athlete from Kamloops competed in three events at the 15th annual Crankworx Whistler mountain bike festival—the final stop in the Crankworx World Tour from Aug. 10 to 19, and rode away with first place in her category in the dual slalom.

Crankworx draws top international athletes to Whistler, B.C. each year, along with an estimated 300,000 plus spectators. On Aug. 18, the bustling village was lined with vendor tents offering free swag, displaying next year’s products and hosting pro-athlete signing events.

The parking in the village was limited because an entire lot was dedicated to companies with vans full of demo bikes, and team space to support hopeful athletes vying for a spot on the podium.

But winning isn’t everything, according to Stewart, who did find herself at the top of the podium Friday, Aug. 17.

One of the main reasons for her trip was the opportunity to make connections, including face-to-face meetings with her sponsors.

“It’s great to make connections with sponsors,” Stewart said. “I met the people from Commencal. They were really nice. It’s important to meet people behind-the-scenes and introduce yourself.”

The introductions didn’t stop there; earlier in the week she was put on a team for a photo contest.

“The Deep Summer Photo Contest was a great experience, making connections with photographers and riders,” she said.

Each team of photographers and riders shot for three days and presented their photos on Wednesday evening.

Stewart in Whistler in August 2018. Photo supplied.

Stewart’s final event was the Ladies Only Jump Jam on Saturday, Aug. 18, where she joined Carpenter and 15 other female riders for a jam-style competition at the Whistler Riverside Jumps.

“It’s a good excuse to go ride with a bunch of ladies,” Stewart said, which she often feels is lacking at home. “The biggest thing about doing a purely female event is that they are supportive and encouraging. Everyone is cheering on one another. It doesn’t matter if you have a bad run.”

The female competitors spent Saturday morning doing repeat jump laps for a large crowd of spectators.

And again, winning wasn’t on Stewart’s mind.

“Doing the trains, we were having so much fun,” she said. “It was more about doing laps than
competing.”

Which isn’t to say that they weren’t pushing themselves. The winner, Caroline Buchanan (who also placed first in the Women’s RockShox Ultimate Pump Track Challenge), is pushing women in the sport according to Stewart. She explained that Buchanan is a good indicator of how women’s riding has progressed.

But regardless of the tricks, it was clear that all of the women were there to ride and have fun,
continuing to take scoreless laps for the crowd while the judges deliberated.

“I wanted to make more friends and have a good time,” Stewart said, who placed fourth in the event.

Crankworx Whistler featured nine main events Aug. 10 to 19, along with an expo, various seminars, women-specific clinics, a video premiere and the crowning of the King and Queen of Crankworx 2018.

The emcee at the inaugural Ladies Only Jump Jam announced to the crowd that he predicts the event will return for next year’s Crankworx Whistler.

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