The GMBN Podcast Ep. 17 | Is Crankworx The Biggest Mountain Bike Event?


(thump sound) – Right, it’s the mountain bike podcast presented by GMBN, number 17. I’m back in the shed, Neil Donoghue, with what’s your name? – Jones, Steven Jones. – Oh, like James Bond. The E-Bike James Bond. We’re talking about what we’ve been up to. We’ve all been all over the world, some of us still are, and the end of Crankworx and yes, e-bike racing, all that sort of stuff. So yeah, Crankworx just
finished a couple of big events obviously the slope style,
arguably the biggest event there. I need to catch up on that, I have not watched the event just yet. But Emil Johansson, the
young, Swede took the win from Brett Rheeder and
Dawid Godziek in third. Couple of big names missing there. Rogatkin didn’t have the
best run, apparently. And then the big sort of
round up of the whole event is King and Queen of Crankworx. So they win points for
events all through the week. And win loads of money
actually, the winners that. So Mitch Ropelato took the win, he won, what’d he win? Speed and style, pump track and Garbanzo, so pretty big range of events there Steve. – But when you say King of Crankworx, obviously he’s going to
win all the other events in the world. There’s a Crankworx in
New Zealand, (mumbles), also Crankworx in Innsbruck
as well, to get that title. – So that’s it, points
come from all those rounds. And it’s for the winners,
actually it’s great to see it at Crankworx, it’s equal
pay, equal prize money for men and women. So Mitch took $20,000
as did Vaea Verbeeck, who took the women’s win. – Can I ask you, you said
they had the biggest event. So is that event not just the
biggest event at Crankworx, is that the biggest mountain
bike event of the world? What is the biggest mountain
bike event of the world? – I don’t know. As far as the free ride goes, it’s either that or Rampage, I suppose. But actually there’s a lot
of people in Whistler there, to watch it and they do
show it live on Red Bull TV, I believe. It’s big. – How many people who are down there at the finish line for that final? – Well I was home by then,
but normally it’s full. I think, is it, 20,000? Or does that sound too much? – Well this just goes back to question. If you say 20,000 and apparently there’s 20,000 people at Les Gets
World Cup Down this year. – Yeah, true, yeah, it’s big. – So what is the biggest
mountain bike event in the world? Tom? Any comment on that? – [Tom] I’m going with Rampage. ‘Cause I think it’s the most
watched mountain bike event. I think it’s the most
watched Red Bull Event. Or it was a few years ago. – If you talk about the social
that goes after, as well, I’m sure that one has
got to be the biggest. Those POV runs that go out and Facebook after Rampage, they get tons of views. – [Tom] And NBC, I think, run it. Don’t they on there? It’s always one big American draw– – Yeah, sort of, hide behind
the sofa to watch Rampage. It’s interesting but awful. Can you imagine those guys, you always see the last few guys waiting for their last runs at the
top of the hill by themselves. Oh my God. – OK, so it’s one of those then. But also, you took Martyn
Ashton to Whistler, yeah? Martyn Ashton going down A-line. I’d love to have seen that. – You can do, it’s on YouTube. (laughs) – No, but this year. This year it sounded a bit hairy to me. – It was fun, you can tell in the video, actually to how much Blake is panicking. Blake obviously knows A-line really well so he knows which jumps which and knows what lines you got to ride. And I did ride a couple
practice runs with those guys and it was pretty terrifying. The one jump actually,
they almost crashed on, is the biggest jump on A-line. And if you take off a
bit wrong on that bike, it’s just game over. Well not game over, they rode it out. But it just gets worse. You can see them banks
when they landed as well. – I just can’t imagine.
– It’s horrible. It’s such a big jump. Honestly that’s one of the biggest jumps I’ve done in a long time. – Really? – And they went big. I didn’t quite clear it. They’re never going to clear it on tandem. – I mean you got to tip
your hat off, right Tom? To deal with, that’s mental, mental. – It is. Yeah. – Going back to prize money then, is that all they won for King
of Crankworx, is 20 grand? – 20 grand. (laughs) – Don, I just come back
from the Tour du Mont Blanc, 16 teams, 350K, three countries,
16,000 meters of climbing, 18,000 meters of descending
and a $30,000 prize fund. – I can’t believe that. So tell me about this.
– You need to believe it, Don. You need to get involved. – What is this? A two-man E-Bike race. – Seriously Tour du Mont
Blanc, it’s a team event, so two people. There’s also pro teams there,
Christoph Sauser was riding, obviously former Olympic Gold Medalist. Marco Fontana, also Olympic Gold Medalist. A lot of big medalists
are in cross country. – I’ve seen Fontana has
been riding E-Bikes a lot. There was the first ever World
Cup was a couple weeks ago over in Lenzerheide, that Fontana won. Yes. – Right? He won what? We talking E-Bikes or? – Yeah, E-Bikes. There was a race in Lenzerheide. – I guess I totally missed that. (laughs) Hold on, that was at Val di Sole. – That was at Val di Sole. – Sorry, I was thinking– – Right, at Val di Sole. Because Absalo, Julian
Absalon was winning it and snapped a chain or punctured and Fontana took the win. – Yeah, I know. But to get Sauser involved in that, those guys, we’re talking
a big altitude gain there per day. – What’s the deal, you see a
lot of cross country racers doing well at these? So is it, it’s a fitness
based style of racing? – 100%, I mean, when I
say five to 6,000 meters of climbing, that’s not
climbing fire roads, that’s climbing single track. – Timed? – Well it’s all timed. You’re timed from, we left
at six o’clock in the morning and I didn’t get back
until six o’clock at night. But those guys are getting back at three, four o’clock in the afternoon. They’re so far ahead
of me it blows my mind that they’re riding so fast
at such an intensity all day. I’ve ridden downhill against
quite a lot of riders, I’ve followed you, I’ve followed Sam Hill, Steve Pete, Nico Vouilloz, but then, I tucked in behind Fontana
and Sauser on one of the descents, on these one-hour descents. Honestly, it was one of the
scariest things I’ve ever done. Riding terrain, riding single track which you’ve never seen before, there was rocks coming towards
my face and I’m thinking, this is pretty sketchy. – And those guys know
how to ride, definitely. Were you riding exposed
trails out ’round there? I know that part of the world, I’ve snowboarded around
Champery and it is, it’s dangerous as it gets. – It is, it is exposed. Some parts of the routes
were via ferrarter, I mean not as extreme as you can get. But still, when you’re
carrying a 20 kilo bike, with cliffs underneath you, yeah, it’s a little bit dangerous. – And are swapping batteries out? How does that work? – Yeah, so the format of it is, you’ve got 2,000 Watt hours. That’s basically, either four batteries, either four or 500 Watt hour batteries or three 700 Watt hour batteries. You set off in the morning
with one in your bike and one in your backpack. So already you’ve got this
weight to carry around with you during the race. You’ve got to take first aid and a load of other safety stuff
because you’re pretty much going out into the mountains. You’re like 10,000 feet some days. And you get to a lunch stop. The funny thing was was that we were, all the teams that took part
were expecting there to be a lunch stop with a ham and cheese, coffee and all that stuff. And then there was a South African guy in charge of the logistics called Martin. We’d ask him these questions and he goes, “Guys, this is not a picnic.” – [Neil] What? – Yeah, we’d be riding
for like four hours, and then we’d have, the clock, you get scanned when you
come in to lunch stop and you’ve got 30 minutes. And in that 30 minutes you’ve got to change your battery,
do all your mechanicals and literally just eat as much as you can and then just get back on the mountain. – That sounds terrible. – It was very, it was probably the hardest thing I’ve
ever done physically. I’ve never been on a
mountain bike for that long. And I’ve never got up and
started a race in the dark. We left Champery in the dark
because, think about it, Mont Blanc is a hotspot
of tourism worldwide, so you can’t have too many people on the trails that time of day. So we left at five o’clock in the morning to get to the top of the mountain. – Why? – It’s beautiful. Champery is actually really
quite an amazing place that time of day. – Yeah, I bet yeah. That’s a bit different, the world I’ve been living in in Whistler. – So what have you been up to in Whistler? – Doing those videos. I raced Garbanzo on an Enduro bike which is the first time I’ve
ridden that in 11 years. – What bike did you ride in? – My Strive, Canyon Strive. Yeah I raced it back in the day when I was a pro downhill racer. – Garbanzo is the 12
minute race, is that right? – Well slightly longer, I think. Sam Hill has done it in
just under 13 minutes. – 13? – 13. – So Garbanzo is all the
way from the top, right? – No, it’s not. Well it’s from the top
of the Garbanzo lift. You can go higher, you can
go to the top of the world. – Sorry, yeah, it’s from the top of the Garbanzo lift. – And I’ve seen actually they do Enduro World Series Stages longer, they do on from the top of the world. – So who won Garbanzo this year? – Mitch Ropelato. – What bike was he on then? – Was he riding Intense? Let me look, no, rode Santa Cruz, V10. – So most people are riding downhill bikes or were they riding long travel? – I think 95% riding downhill bikes, there were a couple, Anneke
Beerten was riding that new Specialized Enduro,
that’s just come out. I think that’s 170mm so
pretty big hitting bike. Couple of guys on Enduro bikes. It was all right. I’m not fit enough to ride any bike. – Oh, here we go, the Don doesn’t ride his bike very often, obviously. – I’m nowhere near as
fit as those top racers. And actually there were
parts where I was glad I was on the Enduro
bike ’cause I was tired and it was light and I
could throw it around and pedal it. ‘Cause there’s a couple
pretty long pedals. I think if I went downhill bike, I would have been more tired. After having ridden a downhill
bike for a while at Whistler, you forget when trails get a bit flatter and you’re trying to pump the thing, how tiring that is. But yeah, I took a Nukeproof Descent, a new downhill bike as well and did plenty of laps on that. – When were you on a downhill bike last? – Well I said, it been
six years, I reckon. – Six years, the Don has
been off a downhill bike? – It was great. They’ve changed, bikes have got better. The bike, it’s the biggest
bike I’ve ever ridden. It was a large frame. – We’ll return you to the
when you were riding that, actually, I better not name the thing. Six, seven years ago you were on a bike that was way too small for you Don. – Well everyone’s bikes
were the same size. – You look like (murmurs). – So it felt good. And Whistler was obviously a great event. The rest of the guys, Martyn and Blake, are literally flying
back today after staying to ride more tandem. They shot another Random Tandem video with someone that will be coming
out in the next few weeks. And they checked out the slopes and all the other events
while still there. It was pretty crazy to
hear that that E-Bike race around Mont Blanc, which
I’ve not heard of before, have bigger prize money
than something as big as the Whistler World Tour. – And I think it was quite pivotal because I think there are people
that still think that riding E-Bikes is lazy. You can see them, you
chat about it every week. But to see those pros doing it, and I think it hopefully will
capture people’s imagination how far you can push an E-mountain bike. But they organize it as
a free-ride World Tour, they do the, what is it, the ski… – I know what you mean,
the extreme skiing. – They’re a massive production
team involved in that and I think, from what I gather, they’re going to try and take this event to different parts of the world, in the same way as maybe EWS does that. So if they did that, when you
see the terrain we ride in, I’m sure there’re going to
be mountain bikers out there, are going to be thinking, hmm, I wouldn’t mind a
bit of that, as well. Because it’s like, you’re
riding natural trails, you’ve never seen before
with amazing scenery. And you know what, when
I was one the hills there for those three days, I probably saw no more than five mountain
bikes up on the mountains. And I think as again, an E-mountain bike is a mountain bike for
that type of terrain. – Yeah, things are changing. It’s funny, I went to Squamish last month and saw mainly mountain bikes but did see a lot of E-Bikes, I could see that how it would be brilliant for
getting up into the wilds. And it’s all pedalable
everything up there. Whilst there are a couple
of shuttle companies, it’s mainly all pedaling,
pedal up the hill. There’s a lot of people taking
advantage of E-Bikes there. Whereas Whistler is
obviously a different place, it’s a proper bike park,
the biggest bike park. The spread there is more enduro bikes. Less downhill bikes than you see, but very few E-Bikes
because I’m not even sure you’re allowed them in the park. – Do you know what I find strange? ‘Cause I’ve been to
Whistler countless times and I go there and you sit down in the middle
of town having a coffee and you’ll hear these
guys in their Troy Lee kit and they’ll be saying to each other, “Wow dude, it’s sick to be downhilling.” And basically they’ll go, they
go to Whistler for two weeks out of the year, that’s the
only mountain biking they do, and it’s the same happens in skiing. You’ll go somewhere and
you’ll hire some skis, and you go skiing for two
weeks or a week of the year. So for Whistler to be
like that surprises me because I think there’s a
huge opportunity there to get punters who’ve never
ridden mountain bikes, on mountain bikes on the hill. Maybe Whistler’s the wrong
place ’cause it’s too difficult. – I don’t know. I mean there’s a big spread of abilities. But there is a lot of
difficult trails at Whistler. I’ve forgot how fast it was actually. After riding, even
A-Line which is a pretty, tame trail really in the scheme of things, you realize you’re bombing. It’s 10, 20 foot wide, it’s smooth and there’s these huge transitions. And you’re hitting jumps
going really, really fast. And you forget how intimidating that is, ’cause I’ve not done it for a long time. For your average mountain
bikers, it’s like, whoa, this is pretty gnarly. – But if you think about it, Whistler’s a famous ski resort. But then, so too is Verbier. Equally so, there are so
many chair lifts in Verbier. But Verbier really has,
they’ve really grabbed this E-Bike thing and there’s
an E-Bike festival there on the weekend. And you could rent E-Bikes out for, for 15 Euros you can
go ride as many E-Bikes as you wanted to because
there’s 30 brands there, 1,000 bikes and they had way more trails at different levels. They had guided tours
for different levels. They had enduro races
you could get stuck into. And of course there was
the Tour du Mont Blanc. A pretty big event
actually, which I think, will obviously only get bigger. – I went to Verbier a few years ago, actually with GMBN. And I was surprised, I mean
it was really good riding, not huge of mine. But I was surprised at the bike
scene wasn’t massive there. There weren’t that many people. – Which the people of
Verbier say themselves. And they say all of a sudden
in the last three, four years it’s actually gone a bit pretty crazy. – That’s good to hear. It’s funny see, in
Whistler, we were up filming on one of the EWS stages which
was out of the bike park. I mean, I say out of the bike park, it’s not under the ski lifts. It’s up on Black Comb, but
it is part of the park. ‘Cause it is–
– [Steve] It’s cool up there, isn’t it? – Yeah and it’s all official trails, they’ve got names, they all have badges. You are allowed to ride them. As opposed to a few years
ago when they were illegal, they’re now legal. But that you all have to pedal up, and there’s Dark Crystal. There’s Micro Climber,
there’s a couple others I can’t remember names. So we rode one of those and, yes, it’s a pretty tough climb. And I was up there filming
with Josh Carlson actually. And every now and again you’d hear that “rrrrr” and you’d think,
oh you lucky so-and-so. People shuttling themselves
up to top of Dark Crystal. – To ride cool trails. – To ride amazing trails. – Yeah, exactly. – But there’s not much of it in Whistler. In fact, I’m not even
100% sure you’re allowed to do it on E-Bikes. But obviously, people do. – It’s a funny attitude isn’t it. But then North America and actually English speaking countries are generally quite way behind when it
comes to E-mountain bikes. – Yep. – But yeah, very very different attitude out in Switzerland, France
and Italy last week. – I think there’s the culture
thing definitely changes but also, it’s like Whistler is, for me, it’s the perfect place
to take a downhill bike. I wouldn’t necessarily
really need an E-Bike if I went to Whistler. Although you could ride a
couple of amazing trails, that’s all you could ride. So depends on where you’re
going, what you want to do. – Going back to something
you said earlier, we rarely chat about this is, Mitch Ropelato was King of Crankworx and he won X amount of money. And I’m saying Tour du Mont Blanc won the same amount of money. I was coming back to you,
what’s the most difficult. You said to me, “Well Mitch
Ropelato deserves it more, “look what he did.” And I thought, well actually, he probably spent a lot
of time in an airplane. – But he’s also able
to win a downhill race, pretty tough, been able to do flip-whips and go fast on speed and style. His spread of abilities, actually Mitch– – He’s quite diverse. – I was thinking he’s a bit of person like Jill Kintner who’s a brilliant rider, both of them are two of the
best riders in the world. But they’ve never quite fit, although Jill did with four-cross. – Did Jill win the Queen of Crankworx? – No, she didn’t actually. – Oh who’s that?
– She was ill, Vaea Verbeeck. – OK, right.
– Jill was a bit ill. She raced the Enduro World
Series and Pump Track and couple others I think. But Jill and Mitch, are two
of the best bike handlers on the planet and they’ve never quite fit Enduro or Downhill or anywhere. But this might be the
thing where they are, their skills really shine through. And it’s a big title. – [Steve] How much time do
they spend on a bike then, do you reckon. You put all those three different events, in Rotorua, Inssbruck and… – Probably an hour. – Exactly. So you’re telling me who
deserves the prize money more? Come on, I mean when the
likes of Sauser and Fontana and Florian Golay are on
their bikes for 20 hours? Come on Don. – [Neil] Yeah, but who had the most fun? – We did! A bunch of us did. Also had the most pain as
well because on the last day I was almost on my limit
because, got to the last climb, the last climb was the equivalent of, well it was like 1,500 meters. The last climb of the day
and that was four o’clock in the afternoon, I was “holy shit.” And it was ridiculously
steep and I had to push a 20 kilo E-Bike up some of those stages. – [Neil] And finished in Verbier. – Yeah finished back in Verbier. – [Neil] At least there’s a
nice pub there, called the W. Isn’t there a W Hotel, very nice. – Oh yeah! (laughs) – [Neil] Very expensive. – Funny you should say that! It wasn’t actually that
expensive this year. – [Neil] Things have changed. – But yeah, it’s not the
cheapest of places to go to which is kind of quite ironic. You can fly in and then
ride all those E-Bikes for not very much. But that comes again, can we
talk about E-Bikes and flying. And maybe the same
could happen in Whistler as it could happen in Verbier. Because you can’t
transport E-Bikes places. It’s a great opportunity
to fly into these places, hire an E-Bike, go and shred
bikes as those guys say, for a couple of weeks and go home. – Shred. Yeah, we actually obviously
flew Martyn’s tandem there. It wasn’t easy. I packed that bike into two boxes. – Oh he split the bike in half? – I took the fork off an
swung the swing arm up, took the shock out. – Well you got that– – Yeah, it went in after (mumbles) and I had to fly with E-Bike batteries, so we rented two from
Corsa cycles in Squamish, a wicked shop if you’re out
in that part of the world. They hooked us up, well
I won’t say hooked us up, we had to pay for it. – So you talk about the W
being a nice place in Verbier, what are the best places in
Whistler to have some beers? – Whistler’s full of– – Tourists? – Dive bars, I would call them. Longhorn, is a terrible place,
we happened to go to there. Are there any nice pubs in Whistler? I’m not sure there are. They all stink a bit like bin juice. – It’s funny isn’t it? – Mountain bikers. – I don’t actually like
Whistler very much. I love riding the trails there, absolutely love it to bits. But the actual down the bottom, too many crowds for me
and it’s got that weird mix of tourists and mountain bikers and it’s all just a weird, I guess, mate. – I actually kind of agree. – Oh, crikey! – I actually really like Squamish. It’s a bit more of an old hick town, got just much cooler vibes, I think. Anyway, what’s coming up is, next couple of weeks,
we’ve got World Champs in Mont-Sainte-Anne. And actually, I bumped into
Bernard Kerr in the coffee shop at Whistler, with a
broken hand at the moment. So not doing any racing. But he is tempting to
race and take the stripes at the E-Bike World Champs which is also taking part in Mont-Sainte-Anne. So it’s going to be a real
mix of people riding that I’m sure you’re going
to find some of those ex world cup cross countriers
and downhillers and all sorts. I can imagine it’s going
to be super tactical in Mont-Sainte-Anne. It’s still going to be
a fitness-based race. – When is Mont-Sainte-Anne,
it’s in two weeks time? – I think it is two weeks. – Who’s going to win the downhill Don? – It’s got to be one of the
Frenchies, I would think. My money would actually be on Pierron. Women? – Women. – We think Tiny is going to be back, she was riding in Whistler. – Right and you said to
me the first time we saw Vally Holl ride in a games– – Yeah, we haven’t talked about that. So the Canadian Open is
one of the last events at Crankworx. – That’s one of the best
tracks there, right? – It is, it’s rough and gnarly. Three minutes long,
Tracey Hannah took the win but Vally Holl was only .6 back and we saw the return of Myriam Nicole. – [Steve] Oh really?
– Only .63 back. – [Steve] Wow. – So that’s all hot and
up for World Champs. – [Steve] Yeah, it’s going
to be pretty tasty, isn’t it? So Myriam, isn’t it? – I’ve got to think that
Tiny’s going to take the win at World Champs. I think the men, Brosnan
took his fifth win in a row at Canadian Open, Bruce Kline
and Kirk McDowell in third. – Can we talk about Aaron
Gwin, Mont-Sainte-Anne? – Yeah. – Do you reckon this could– – I can’t imagine him
coming, I mean he’s going to obviously throw down something. – Quick bit of history? – Go on. That was his first ever World Cup and he came 12th, I know that. ‘Cause it was one of my last. – Quick bit of history. Do you remember when Sam Hill,
went out of action in 2011, was it, when he was riding specialized? He’s been injured early in the year and he focused everything
on Mont-Sainte-Anne and he came back and won it. – [Neil] Who did? Sam Hill? – Sam Hill did, yeah. – [Neil] What’s that got to do with Gwin? – Well it’s a similar scenario. You’ve got, Gwin’s been out of action, he’s coming back
Mont-Sainte-Anne’s his race. Could he win the World Championships. He’s never won it, it’s the
only thing he’s never won. – So you think he’s never going to win. I don’t know, I can’t see him coming back and beating those guys. I saw Marcelo Gutierrez actually,
briefly in the giant pits and we were talking about this. And about people coming back and I was like, well, I
just can’t see anyone. And he agreed, he was like, what those two guys Pierron
and Bruni are doing now is incredible. – Yeah, I have to agree. I think it’s one of those
suits to be honest there. But then Gwin has got
history on that track. When he came down in the
rain a couple of years ago. Hell of a run. – Well.
– Hell of a run, Don. – Something to look forward to. Next weekend, actually we’ve
got an Enduro World Series out in, what’s that in America, is it North Star or is Snowmass. – Snow pass. Snowmass is the downhill. – OK, so it’s North Star, it’s Lake Tahoe. – And what have you got on
the next few weeks, Don, apart from doing some family business. – That’s a great question, I don’t know what I’m doing actually. I am at home for a few weeks. Riding my bike. – Good. – Making videos. – Good stuff. – Right, that’s it for the podcast. You can find it on Spotify, Apple, iTunes, on AudioBoom, and another
I forgot the name of. Also, of course, here on YouTube.

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