Crankworx Whistler this year host the inaugural Women’s Speed and Style competition so we caught up with Crankworx’s Julia Montague to chat more.
Pete sat down with Crankworx’s comms manager Julia Montague to find out more about the very first Women’s Speed and Style event that will be debuted at 2019 Crankworx Whistler.
How did the Women’s Speed and Style come about?
Finding ways to elevate women in mountain biking and level the playing field has always been a focus for Crankworx. In 2007 we hosted Womenzworx, a series of judged freeride events. In 2015 we changed our podium setup, awarding men and women alongside one another on the podium, and offering equal prize money. Talking to some of the women who were competing at that time, the shared podium really made a statement.
The statement was: these competitors are all of equal importance. The goal has really always been to take gender out of the equation. The industry has been making heroes of men for years. We want the next generation of little girls and boys to look up to both female and male riders with no distinction. A hero is a hero.
In 2018 we launched the first women’s Jump Jam at Crankworx Whistler, with a goal to give women an arena to showcase their style and still on a bike. This was definitely a step in the right direction. We tried to re-create the event in Rotorua, but it was difficult to duplicate, so we went back to the drawing board to try and find the right formula: a contest that meets female riders where they’re at now, provides room to grow and progress, and that we can recreate at all our stops on the Crankworx World Tour.
I think it’s the convergence of a number of things. The demand was growing. We could see the riders were there and had the skills for this. The time seemed right to create the opportunity to bring it all together.
Will this form part of the Queen of Crankworx title?
This is the goal. We’re using this first event in Whistler as a test. Everything we do is athlete-focused, so we will see how this first contest goes then go back to the athletes and get their feedback, then plot our course from there.
Will Europe and Rotorua events host a similar round?
I think one of the most exciting things about Crankworx for athletes and fans is having these battles in different disciplines play out around the world. It’s so cool to see athletes like Tahnee Seagrave line up at the start gate next to Casey Brown or Caroline Buchanan. Where else do you get downhill, freeride and BMX stars together in one race?
To then get to follow these battles around the world makes for some really epic competition. Since we cemented the Crankworx World Tour in 2015, the goal has always been to create that consistency for athletes and fans. We’ll see how things go at this first event in Whistler then decide where we take it next.
What are the aims of the women’s beyond just more participation?
I believe what’s happening in mountain biking is part of a bigger conversation. We want the women competing now to have more opportunities. In doing that we want to pave the way from the next generation, which is both a physical and mental paving. When little girls and boys see female heroes celebrated as equals, then that becomes normal to them.
And then we don’t have to have this conversation any more. So for us, it’s about bringing an end to this conversation and leading the way within the industry to normalise equality. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but we’re in it for the long game.
What do women’s only events offer that a mixed event can’t?
The jumps in Speed & Style are massive. The number of female riders that can hit them at the moment is pretty limited. So the goal with creating a women’s only event is meet female riders where the field is at now. We want to give them a course where they can really show off what they can do, set a benchmark, and grow from there.
What made Speed and Style more suitable than say, slopestyle?
The Crankworx FMBA Slopestyle World Championship is the pinnacle of the discipline. It’s been awesome to see the Women’s Slopestyle Tour launch this year, with three bronze-level events in North America. The goal for us is to start with Speed & Style, and build on that foundation.
We’ve also launched a women’s category in Best Trick for the first time. If we can set the stage for women and play a role in helping them progress to the point where we can host a women’s category for the SWC, that will be a very good day.
Who do you expect will be at the sharp end of this event, and who will surprise as a dark horse?
Great question. It will be interesting to watch how the season unfolds. The Clif Speed & Style is invitational, so for the women’s category we’ll be watching the WST events, as well as a series of local dirt jump events in Whistler. With the attention all these new women’s events have gotten, it will be interesting to see who shows up and steps up.
If Caroline Buchanan is in good form, she’s a tough one to beat. She’s got great style and is super dedicated to progression. In terms of a dark horse, I feel like there are women we don’t even know about who’re going to come out of the woodwork, and really, that’s what this is all about.
What specific challenges has getting this organised have you faced?
So far we haven’t faced too many challenges. We are dedicated to making this happen. The women are stoked. The industry is supportive, unsurprising given the huge surge of women on the trails these days. The spark is there, we’re just adding some fuel to the fire.
What can riders expect from the events?
Some really talented women on bikes. Speed & Style is a really exciting discipline to watch because it requires some pretty intense strategy. Riders are racing head-to-head, but they also have to manage their speed so they can hit the jumps just right to land their tricks smoothly. It draws on skills, speed and a deep and consistent bag of tricks.
Have you had to overcome any major obstacles to get to this point?
Honestly probably our biggest obstacle is scheduling. There is so much happening during Crankworx, to carve out space for another event is always a challenge. If you ask the athletes, they often say the same thing.
Time management during Crankworx is huge. On any given day they have multiple training sessions, on top of seeding and racing. We, and they, get creative and we always make it work.