CLIF Crankworx Summer Series: Whistler Athlete Catch Up

CLIF Crankworx Summer Series: Whistler Athlete Catch Up

When faced with creative problems, bikers are no strangers to coming up with creative solutions. From trailside MacGyver-esque bike repairs to keep rolling, to creative carries on a hike-a-bike, there’s not a lot that can stand in the way of a determined rider set on gettin’ ‘er done.

To say that the COVID-19 outbreak has been a monkey wrench in our collective summer plans would be an understatement. Events have been cancelled, rescheduled and re-imagined left and right. One of the top summer events in Whistler is Crankworx. Everyone on two wheels (or two feet for that matter) can’t wait for those couple of weeks in August when the town explodes with races, parties, films and events, all celebrating bike culture.

Crankworx Whistler Slopeside Crowd

No huge roaring crowds this summer, but Crankworx has come up with new ways for you to get your fix. PHOTO FRASER BRITTON

Crankworx as we know it won’t be happening this year, but not all is lost. In the spirit of creative solutions, the team at Crankworx has created the CLIF Crankworx Summer Series to keep the racing stoke alive. This made-for-TV event, including Crankworx Connect broadcasting from Whistler, has brought together a bike bubble of 25 top-notch racers to compete in a three-stop tour of multi-discipline bike racing. While they travel, you can take in all the action from the comfort of home.

To give you a peek into what life is like for the racers inside that Crankworx bubble, I caught up with two Whistler locals. They shared their experience on tour and, because they’re #WhistlerNice, they’ve added in some helpful nuggets for anyone planning a biking trip to Whistler.

Jesse Melamed

Jesse Melamed

Born and raised in Whistler, Jesse has been pedalling the endless trails of Whistler his whole life (hands up if you’re jealous). All those years of practice are paying off as Jesse is now one of the top 10 enduro riders in the world.

Normally during race season, Jesse is jet-setting around the world following the Enduro World Series, but this summer has kept him a little closer to home. This enduro specialist is being put to the test by having to dust off his skills in other disciplines too.

Could you share the vibe and athlete experience of competing in the CLIF Crankworx Summer Series?

JM: So far, the vibe has been amazing. It feels like a big friend’s trip. Being that we’re all from BC and all ride together, or see each other at the bike parks often, it feels very familiar. We are all just hanging out, riding bikes and then racing each other. It’s been a great time so far!

 

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Trail riding has been exploding in popularity as an approved physically-distanced activity. If you had some intermediate-level riding friends come to town, what would you suggest as a must-ride?

JM: I think Lost Lake is a great place to start! The trails are super fun for any level and there is the option for a quick dip in the lake after. If they’re after something a little more technical, Westside has some great trails and has been getting some work recently (thanks to the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association). Chipmunk Rebellion is the latest one.

 

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Physical distancing has caused us to keep our riding circles to a select few. Who’s in yours?

JM: I feel very grateful that I have my factory team close by and that they are some of my best friends. We have been staying connected through COVID and riding often.

 

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Could you share what it was like growing up in a mountain biker’s paradise?

JM: It was normal life for me, I don’t know any different. I guess I was spoiled with amazing skiing and biking my whole life, and I wouldn’t settle for anything less now. I also didn’t feel like I ever had to travel anywhere, I had everything I needed. Lots of events and professionals come to town too. I’m quite satisfied!

 

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You’ve become a pretty big deal in the bike world, but your dad was once the mayor of Whistler. Who gets recognized more around town?

JM: That’s a tough one! I’d say it’s pretty even.

Check out the video below for some more time with rider Jesse Melamed.


Leonie Picton

Leonie Picton With Bike

This Australian transplant has been tearing up Whistler’s trails for the better part of a decade. If you ever had any doubt that a girl can smoke you on a trail, I recommend taking a hot lap with this lady. Like Jesse, you can normally find her on the Enduro World Series circuit, but she’s spending this summer close to home. But hey, there are worse places to be stuck, right?

For those watching from home, can you give us an insider’s look into what it’s like to compete at this event?

LP: It has been such a unique experience. With the absence of spectators, it really highlights the difference in intensity you feel during a race. While you are still giving it your all when you drop in through the start gate, it’s just the sound of your own breathing and your tires fighting to find grip on the dirt and rocks as you make your way to the finish line.

There is no one cheering you on, calling at you to pedal harder and making as much noise as possible. What I would give for a high five or a finish line congratulatory hug. We are very fortunate to have this opportunity to be competing at the CLIF Crankworx Summer Series, and keeping healthy is an important part too, so social distancing is a priority – I just miss those high fives!

 

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The secret is out; trail riding is ridiculously fun. What is your advice for fellow riders new to Whistler?

LP: It is really incredible to see the increase in rider numbers in the Sea to Sky. It’s also been great to see everyone I’ve met on-trail being very respectful of the physical distancing requirements.

A short must-ride route would be what is known locally as the Dessert Platter, consisting of Piece of Cake, A La Mode, Whipped Cream, Cherry on Top, Green Jell-O and Beaver Pond. While a longer must-ride route option would be Into the Mystic and to descend either LESS or Lord of the Squirrels, depending on how much climbing you are wanting to do.

 

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Social bubbles mean we have to be selective about who we hang out with, like picking people to be stranded on a desert island with. Who’s been in your go-to riding crew this season?

LP: I have been stranded on my desert island with my housemates and a few of my close friends. I am very lucky to have such great friends during this time. While not every day has been a breeze, especially during the first month or so, I have really enjoyed the experience so far, and have learned so much about myself during the isolation.

 

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Whistler is home to many an Australian, and as a result, some of their best food and drink has been imported here as well. As a proud Whis-tralian, where do you go when you want to get a taste of home?

LP: You can’t go past a good old Aussie meat pie with some tommy on top.

Mini Peaked Pies on the Whistler Food Tour

INSIDER TIP: Craving some authentic Australian cuisine?  Peaked Pies makes the goods that hit the spot.

The CLIF Summer Series has a lineup of some seriously badass female riders (including yourself). What advice do you have for women who are just starting out or are looking to take their riding to the next level?

LP: Starting off can be a very intimidating experience. It is important to have someone you can ride with, so you can build skills and confidence together. And most importantly, always have fun. The advice for someone trying to take their riding to the next level is actually the same.

I like to ride with people who will encourage me and help me build confidence, all while having fun. Joining a coaching group will make the progress of improvement faster and you will make some great friends along the way.

Two riders whip-off at Crankworx Whistler

There may not be the crowds, but there’s still the passion. PHOTO JUSTA JESKOVA

There’s plenty more action to come on this tour, so make sure to tune in on Crankworx.com. While the racers can’t hear your cheers in person, you can show them love online.

If this has inspired you to get on to two wheels then the Whistler Mountain Bike Park is open, as are hundreds of cross-country trails around Whistler Valley. If you’re coming to Whistler this summer check out this Know Before You Go post and please bring your travel manners to the trails!

Megan Wilson

Megan Wilson

Megan is a mountain adventurer guilty of breaking the golden rule, telling everyone her mountain secrets (ok, maybe she keeps a few to herself). Ontario by birth, and now Whistler by choice, even a decade later, the mountains still take her breath away.

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