Not ones to be out off by anything, the Crankworx team set about organising their summer series in the wake of the COVID event cancellations.
With the World in the grips of COVID and their flagship event, Crankworx Whistler off the cards, the team behind the Crankworx World Tour took advantage of some amazing talent and venues to run the inaugural Crankworx Summer Series.
Pete had a chat with Crankworx’ Julia Montague about how it all came together.
What was the inspiration for the Crankworx Summer Series?
It felt like everything changed really fast when we got back from Crankworx Rotorua. The little whispers we’d been hearing about COVID-19 became a shout. Canada shut down its borders pretty soon after we got back, and our whole team had to quarantine for two weeks. Looking ahead to the rest of the year, the unknowns around whether we’d be able to host our next two festivals really sunk in.
About a week later, our GM Darren Kinnaird called a meeting on a Monday afternoon. He told us about this idea that he’d had over the weekend. Inspired by the fact that B.C. is home to some of the best mountain bikers in the world, some of the best bike parks, etc., he thought “Why don’t we bring them all together and do something cool here?”
Once you’d made that decision, what happens next?
Our team started working on the concept right away. Darren has said from the beginning: “We’re going to work on this until someone tells us to stop.” That day never came. He also joked that it was like we were building the plane as it was taking off.
While there are some key similarities in what we normally do with Crankworx, we were definitely reinventing the wheel here, especially with the health and safety regulations we put in place behind the scenes. They are really the foundation of this series that made it possible.
Who’s involved and what do they do?
Our Crankworx team is at the helm, along with our broadcast production team, Boombox Group. They’re based out of Quebec, so they started testing ways to do remote production. Again, this enabled us to keep our numbers tight and do this without people from out-of-province.
The others who made this possible are our sponsors, the resorts that got as excited as us, and some additional tourism partners who believed in our vision. And of course, the athletes. Really we did this for them, and for the fans. We wanted to give them something to get excited about. One week in, it feels like we’ve accomplished that.
Were the Crankworx team ever not working during the pandemic?
Never. It’s been crazy.
How did you choose the venues?
We have some really exceptional bike parks in B.C. In that first meeting where Darren shared his idea with us, we started brainstorming ideas for places. Then it was a matter of sharing our vision with them and seeing who wanted to roll the dice on this wacky and wonderful idea.
Was it easy to trim it down to 25 riders?
In a way, yes. Our main focus looking at the top ranked World Cup downhill racers, EWS riders and Crankworx athletes. So we looked at rankings and a few other factors, made our list and went from there.
How did you trim the list of amazing Canadian riders down?
We basically just started at the top and went down. Committing to the series required some open-mindedness for sure. To be honest, we weren’t 100% sure it would be going ahead until a few weeks out. This was also a big commitment for everyone. They had to contact trace for the two weeks leading up, limit their social circles, and then obviously commit to being on the road for three weeks.
What are the challenges of event organisation during the BC Phase 3 recovery?
It’s a whole new way of running an event. We have many health and safety protocols in action behind the scenes, from daily temperature checks to disinfecting bikes and tools to strict rules to prevent crowding in the communities we’re travelling to.
Phase 3 recovery allows for travel within the province. But we wanted to go beyond due diligence and hold ourselves to a higher standard in many of our operating procedures in order to ensure we were doing as much as possible to keep each other, and the communities, safe.
What are the logistics behind making a made-for-TV event?
We’re pretty dialled when it comes to producing events for broadcast. The challenges here are that we’re producing them in places we’ve never been before, and we have strict rules about spectators. When we’re running races it feels more like a closed TV set than a mountain bike race.
Would the summer series fit into a ‘normal’ Crankworx schedule, or is this a COVID one-off?
Who knows… It’s been pretty epic so far, so if this is something we can work into a normal year, then giddy up.
Favourite moments so far?
For me personally, sitting at the bottom of the SilverStar Air DH on our last day of Week 1. It was such a cool vibe… These top athletes all just racing against their buddies. After the race, Finn Iles and Miranda Miller offered to announce the winners for awards. It was some good comedy. There’s a great vibe of this little community that’s come together to do some cool stuff and share it with the world. I think we all feel pretty lucky.
No disasters. Some challenges for sure. But hey, that’s event life. And… that’s 2020 for you.
People to thank?
A friend of mine messaged me when we made the announcement and said: “Well done on making something cool happen in 2020”. So I would extend that to everyone who got us here, the athletes, production team, resorts, sponsors, and partners. Thank you for helping us make something cool happen in 2020.
And I’d say we all owe a big debt of gratitude to Darren. He never gave up, despite the many hurdles we faced along the way. Putting on this event has felt like a little taste of “normal” and we’ve gotten so many messages from people around the world telling us how stoked they are that mountain bike racing is back. Crazy the ripple effect a little spark of inspiration can have.
Check out the full Crankworx Summer Series schedule and live feeds on the Cranworx website here.
Read all our other interviews on our Features page here.