Among the crocodiles and the cassowaries, Cairns will play host to a Crankworx World Tour stop from October 5-9, 2022.
The idea to bring Crankworx to Australia has been bubbling away in the background since just after the World Championships rolled through Cairns in 2017.
Matt Hilton from GTR Events — which ran the Cairns World Champs — tells us after the last rainbow jersey had been awarded, they started looking ahead at what was next. With the prospect of bringing another World Champs to Australia a decade or more away, GTR identified two goals. The first was to host a new MTB stage race in Victoria — The GOAT — and the second was to bring another major international event down under.
- The inaugural Trek Momentum Progression Camp supporting women to get into freeride
- Haz of all trades — the journey from BMX racing to Freeride MTB
- Australian Slopestyle Tour is on like Donkey Kong | Four stop freeride tour for 2022
“Our chairman was headed over to Canada for a holiday, and Crankworx Whistler was actually on at the time. So we got Darl (Herbert, from GTR) to meet with Darren (Kinnaird, Crankworx World Tour Managing Director) to put Australia on the table,” says Hilton.
After plenty of back and forths, Warburton had emerged as the front runner to host. However, a combination of the EES process and a funding opportunity from Tourism Tropical North Queensland, Kinnaird circled back to GTR Events and asked if they had ever hosted anything in Cairns.
Back to Smithfield
Glen Jacobs from World Trail tells us it was around this time of year nearly 30 years ago when they started discussing bringing the first World Cup to Cairns, and now Smithfield is set to host yet another international level event.
“Crankworx love taking their brand, and their product to beautiful places. Carins certainly ticked those boxes when Darren came to visit,” says Jacobs.
As the fourth stop on the main Crankworx calendar, Cairns brings something totally unique among the stops in the Northern Hemisphere and even against Rotorua.
“Cairns is super hot and super humid, and it’s a more rainforest vibe than any of the other stops. I think it’s a really great opportunity for people from the other side of the world to come out for a bit longer, and experience the riding here for a week or two before heading over to New Zealand for Rotorua,” says Harriet Burbidge-Smith, who took third place overall in the 2021 Queen of Crankworx standings.
“I’m pretty excited to have people come to race in my home country and have a home crowd for the first time,” she continues.
With Carins in October and Rotorua a month later, Burbidge-Smith is also excited about what Crankworx will do for the burgeoning local freeride scene.
“It also opens up opportunities for Australian riders who don’t get the chance to go overseas as easily — especially over to Europe — and they can tag on and do the New Zealand round as well,” she says.
Of course, Crankworx is more than just an elite level event, and there is a whole festival and a massive trade show that comes along with it. But it also provides the opportunity to lay the foundation for the next generation of riders.
“What I like most about a Crankworx event, is its accessibility to all ages and abilities. Kidsworx is such a cracking concept, and CW Next (which is the category for kids under 18) is such an amazing category to really push up-and-coming athletes through the ranks, and be seen on the world scale. There are not too many events that provide that,” says Hilton.
Smithfield will play host to the entire festival, with Tom Hey from Elevate Trail Building — who is also responsible for the Crankworx Innsbruck and Rotorua courses — coming in to lead the build, supported by World Trail, and Remy Morton will also be on the build. Jacobs tells us they are just getting started on the design work, with the course to be constructed mid-year.
Smithfield was purpose-built as a venue to hold events, so it has the vital infrastructure to smooth the process out, however, the landscape is pretty unique compared to Whistler, Innsbruck, or even Skyline MTB Park in Rotorua.
“It’s going to be different to those big European grass fields,” he says. “We do have some grass fields, but it’s half grass, and then the rest is jungle, so there is going to be a lot of creative camera work, and it’s going to be a different style course — we can’t wait to see what Tom comes up with,” says Jacobs.
The other aspect of the venue will be what it leaves behind. In the same way, you can ride the World Cup DH runs at Smithfield and Stromlo and the Comm Games XC course at Nerang, the infrastructure that Crankworx leaves behind doesn’t just disappear when the festival move on to the next stop.
“Part of bringing Crankworx to Australia is creating a legacy, and providing more opportunities to ride these courses more often,” says Hilton. “Part of our strategy is to leave behind a world-class pump track and dual slalom course that the local mountain bike club or national sporting body can utilise year-round for events. The layer of infrastructure that an event like Crankworx leaves behind is so valuable.”
Then, of course, there is everything else that Cairns brings to the table.
“The beautiful thing about Cairns is that we have the beaches and The Great Barrier Reef just a stone’s throw away from the course. Everything is along the northern beaches — Palm Cove and Trinity Beach. You can literally ride your bike from your hotel on the beach to the course,” says Jacobs.
Festival passes for Crankworx Cairns are available now, head over to the Crankworx website for more.