04 June 2024
Post originally written in: Deutsch Information An automatic machine translation. Super fast and almost perfect.

Few people have been enthusiastic about the Crankworx World Tour for as long as Helene Fruwirth: she has been competing for 16 years. In the run-up to this year's edition in the Bikepark Innsbruck, she explains the fascination of the mountain bike festival.

Bikes as far as the eye can see. When the weather is nice, half the population of Innsbruck can be found on rickety bikes, speedy racing bikes or whirring e-bikes. From June 12 to 16, however, you can be sure that the most off-road bike species will take over for a short time: The Crankworx World Tour gives priority to mountain bikes in the city. Whilst I crank through the city, wary of every bump in the road, the festival attracts people who feel just as comfortable on two wheels as they do on their feet. People like Helene Fruhwirth, who has been taking part in Crankworx for 16 years and gives a little insight into what it means to have dedicated a good part of your life to biking.

Helene, when did you take part in Crankworx for the first time and how did you get into the competition?
Helene Fruwirth: "My first Crankworx event was in Whistler in 2008. It was already a dream of mine back then to travel to Whistler, and I love MTB competitions. So I packed up my things and flew first to the World Cup in Mount Saint Anne, then to Bromont and then to Crankworx."

At this point, she had already been competing in small and large mountain bike races for ten years, so was anything but inexperienced going into the race. The extensive preparation paid off: The Austrian came third in the Giant Dual Slalom, fifth in the Gabonzo Downhill and eleventh in the Canadian Open. The medal from back then still hangs on her wall today.

Having success is one thing, but not resting on your laurels and keeping going is another. In view of the fact that more and more competitions and sports are vying for the attention of exercise enthusiasts, it is striking how long Helene has been involved. Context: Crankworx has been around since 2004, so she joined in the early years.

As you say yourself, you've been around forever. What is it about Crankworx that has convinced you so much that you keep coming back?
"Yes, exactly, 16 years. Wow, I just had to count it myself. That's a long time - and I still ride and look forward to it every year when I get an invitation. There are several things. On the one hand, seeing my old friends again, like Caroline Buchanan. Then the different routes. The town of Whistler, of course, which is amazing even without Crankworx. Then the atmosphere at the races. Of course it's a competition, but it's always been a 'fun' competition for me compared to the UCI World Cup races. No qualification where it's a matter of life and death - on the final day you get to start and do your best."

When Helene thinks back to her time at Crankworx so far, the first thing she mentions is her experiences with Buchanan, a native Australian, and the Kiwis, the riders from New Zealand. The event series may be characterized by competition, but the scene is held together by a certain sense of community. Helene's mental gallery of course includes her successes and medals, the joint activities during the festival and spectators of a different kind, such as a lost bear on the downhill course in Whistler.

The athlete has a special relationship with downhill. Each discipline has its advantages; she celebrated her greatest success at Crankworx with bronze in the dual slalom, but she is particularly fond of the course in Innsbruck. This is not part of the potpourri of competitions this year, but change is also inevitable in the world of biking.

It's been quite a while since you first took part. How have the mountain bike scene and the event changed?
"It's become much bigger and the number of participants has increased. The level of the riders too."

This year, Helene will be competing in the pump track and dual slalom categories, but she will only be watching the new slopestyle competition for women from the stands. The Crankworx veteran welcomes the fact that the women can now also compete in this discipline. This only fits in with the sporting progress of the top female athletes. She has a piece of advice for the women in the scene that could be applied to many areas of life:

"Generally speaking, don't wait for someone to do it for you, just do it - this also applies to men. For example, register, plan your trip, be able to repair your bike, ask other riders and join forces. Be brave, and not just on the bike."

Participants definitely need courage, because mountain biking at a high level is not a trivial undertaking by any stretch of the imagination.

How do you deal with the risk that every ride entails?
"That's a difficult question because my willingness to take risks varies greatly. The balance depends on a number of factors, for example: What are my chances of winning the race? What phase of my cycle am I currently in? Have I just been injured and have I not yet come to terms with the whole thing? What are the chances of my maneuver going wrong at this point - because I'm just not good at it? What type of route is it? Does the track suit me?"

So what looks like a wild ride is actually well calculated. According to Helene, however, one factor gets stronger with age: fear. This can be quite disruptive when you actually want to give it your all. What's more, she is no longer a full-time racer, but has built up other mainstays with her bike, which she doesn't want to compromise with an injury.

Not only the body, but also the racing bureaucracy is not always kind to ageing. In some competitions, there is no masters license for women, which separates those over 30 from the more physically capable 20-year-olds. The chain of consequences is long, as Helene explains:

"I would actually be European champion in 2023 - but I couldn't start in the women's masters class because of the UCI points I scored in a European Cup race. The result is that the level and the number of female riders are dropping as a result."

Helene therefore hopes that all women over 35 - regardless of whether they have a master's or elite license - will be allowed to compete in their age category at a World Championship or European Championship, UCI points or not. In any case, she will remain loyal to the sport - and give her best at Crankworx again this year.

Crankworx Innsbruck 2024

For the eighth time, the Crankworx World Tour is stopping off in the Innsbruck region this year. This year, the mountain bike elite will be in Innsbruck from 12. until June 16 in the Bikepark Innsbruck, with a women's slopestyle competition on the agenda for the first time. In addition to the competitions, there will once again be a varied supporting program including side events, a bike expo and more.

Header image: @alexchapics

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