CWNEXT aims to bridge the gap between Crankworx’s main events and the Kidsworx series to foster the next generation of stars.

Pete caught up with Crankworx’s main man Darren Kinnaird to find out the inspiration for bridging the gap and what the future holds for CWNEXT.

Photo by Jay French.

What was the spark that made you want to open Crankworx up to a younger audience?

It’s been something we’ve been considering for a couple of years. We’ve been running Kidsworx since 2013, and the popularity of these events has really exploded. There’s now a generation of young riders who’ve grown up alongside Crankworx.

In recent years, the popularity of the older categories of the Kidsworx events really led us to believe that there was a need to create something different. Plus the talent of the young riders we see out there now, it’s next-level. We knew it was time to elevate the experience for these young athletes at our festivals.

Why now?

It wasn’t so much that we decided it was time, but that our young athletes showed us it was time. We’ve been watching the stars of these young athletes rise through Kidsworx for years. The demand for more challenge was there. This year at Crankworx Whistler we saw one break through, based on his overall career results thus far, 16-year-old Jakob Jewett was invited to compete in the RockShox Ultimate Pumptrack Challenge.

He worked his way through the ladders to eventually face Pump Track master Adrien Loron in the semi-finals. To be at that level at such a young age is an unbelievable feat. He eventually came in fourth overall, having faced the best of the best. This is just one example of the talent that’s out there. CWNEXT is going to give these up-and-comers an arena of their own.

Photo by Fraser Britton.

How did you decide which Cranworx events to include in the new CWNEXT line-up?

We focused on the core events that our King and Queen competitors take on. Our future Kings and Queens are out there amongst this next generation of competitors. This will give them a taste of what it’s like to train for and compete in multiple disciplines, just like our King and Queen competitors do.

Will you have any riders working with kids to get the best out of the events?

We’ve had a variety of events like this in the past. In 2018, Martin Soderstrom and Anneke Beerten worked with kids at several of our stops on pump track skills. We haven’t solidified all our programming for this year yet, but hopefully we’ll see more events like that.

Merida Big.Trailtea

Photo by Jay French.

What are the challenges of opening up the festival to younger riders?

Crankworx festivals are so busy already. Between pro training and finals, Kidsworx programming, and different participatory events for festival attendees like group rides and tech seminars, plus cultural events and parties, it’s a challenge to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and make room in the schedule.

Will the courses change at all for the CWNEXT events?

For competitive Kidsworx events, we’ve altered courses, had b-lines, or had separate courses altogether. For CWNEXT, these young amateur will be racing on the same courses as the pros.

Photo by Clint Traharn.

What does CWNEXT add to Crankworx beyond simply more competitors and a broader age range?

This is an investment in the future of the sport. CWNEXT is a stepping stone between Kidsworx and high-level pro/amateur competition. The King and Queen of Crankworx have become heroes to the next generation. CWNEXT will provide the opportunities and confidence for these young athletes to say, “That could be me someday.”

How hard do you think it’ll be to keep the competition lively without hurting anyone’s feelings?

The young athletes who’ll be racing in CWNEXT are already experienced. In Kidsworx a lot of the focus is on fun and getting a taste of what racing is like. CWNEXT will build on that foundation, and take it to the next level. At all levels of Crankworx, yes, it’s a competition, but at the end of the day it’s about our shared passion for riding bikes.

Photo by Jay French.

Are there plans to expand the CWNEXT event line-up?

We are always dreaming about what’s next for Crankworx. We’re stoked to see where CWNEXT will take us this year, and going forward. Crankworx Rotorua will be kicking off a new decade of international MTB competition. How perfect to have the next generation of racers be an integral part of that.

To find out full event details for the CWNEXT events at Crankworx Rotorua, Innsbruck and Whistler, head to the Crankworx website here.

Read all our other interview with the cycle industry’s top cats on our Features page here.