Pinned With Polygon | The gang goes to Crankworx
The Polygon crew hits the road to leave its mark on the inaugural Crankworx Cairns
It’s been a while since we last embedded with the Polygon crew for shenanigans on two wheels, but this time we’ve traded the high alpine for the tropical rainforest.
Crankworx Cairns brought some of the world’s best to Tropical North Queensland, including from team Polygon, who combine forces with the Aussie contingent to put on a show. With a Crankworx veteran leading the charge, the rookies were soaking in every inch of air time and orange dirt they could put tyres on.
Day 0 | The inside man
Elevate Trail Building has been hard at work building the new venue at Smithfield for months, and as it happens, Polygon rider Jai Motherwell is also on the Elevate Trail Building crew.
The course was immaculate, thanks to Motherwell and the rest of the build team spending A LOT of time on the business end of a shovel.
Motherwell and the team from Elevate were on the tools building the jumps for the Whip-Off and the slopestyle course.
“We really wanted to create something different to what was already going on at the other stops,” he says. “We spent a lot of time watching old video parts and BMX videos, and then looking at old school events for inspiration.”
Between the ‘whale pipe,’ the on-off button and the dirt half pipe, even non-mountain bikers could see the distinct nature of the venue. Motherwell explains that everything was constructed to create multiple approaches to trick on or off. Smithfield also falls within a National Park, so the team had to work within tight trail corridors, forcing the build crew to think outside the box to control speed and keep the courses flowing.
These jumps aren’t going to water themselves.
In the middle of the slopestyle course we needed to really slow down the speed, otherwise you would have been going way too fast through the bottom. But a bunch of grade reversals and berms would have killed the flow of the course. We wanted to make sure we could put in trickable features that would also slow you down. We had a lot of people come up to us straight after the event and say you guys did such an insane job — that’s what makes it all worth it in the end.”
The on-off button was one of the features that Elevate dreamt up to slow riders down without disrupting the flow of the course.
Day 1 | The Whip-Off
How sideways can you go? The age-old question the whip-off seeks to answer and it’s the perfect crowd-pleasing event to ring in Crankworx Cairns. The Trek Official Australian Whip-Off Championships, presented by POC, saw riders take to the first of five courses making their debut for the event.
Elevate Trail Building had sculpted a 140m course with two jumps — one for warm-ups and a moon booter for the real show. Both saw a 12m gap from lip to knuckle; the warm-up jump with a 4m tall takeoff, while a 6m cheese wedge sent riders into the stratosphere for the judges — one of which was Polygon’s own Anthony Messere.
This jump was rumoured to be the biggest in Crankworx history. We haven’t been able to verify that fact, but Motherwell, who is already in Rotorua working on the course for the next stop, tells us the Kiwi version looks small in comparison.
Motherwell, Tom Wrigley and Jadon Wilson all sought to achieve the perfect 90-degree angle and bag a podium for team Polygon.
This Crankworx looks so different to any of the other stops. Tom capitalised on the opportunity to go upside down.
Warming up for some judging, Messere takes a lap through the berms.
For Wilson, it was his first Crankworx, and there were nerves to contend with standing at the top.
It was one of the biggest jumps I’ve ever hit, and I’ve never ridden in front of such a big crowd before. It’s pretty intimidating sitting at the top thinking don’t stuff up here; there are thousands of people watching,”
It was the Crankworx debut for both Wrigley and Wilson, and in among everything from the festival, both said it would be watching their mate land a big trick that will be what they remember about the Cairns.
There is this 17-year-old kid Leroy (Leslie), he front flipped the first jump in the Whip-Off line, and that was such a surreal experience. I grew up with him and train with him all the time, it feels a bit like I’ve taken him under my wing. Seeing him stomp that in front of thousands of people — it was so awesome. I’ll never forget that.”
Garret Mechem, Tom Locke and David McMillan took the podium on the day, but our three musketeers would live to ride another day.
Wilson went off script for the whip-off with a ‘uge tuck no hander.
Wrigley doing his best Superman impression with a floaty superman seat grab.
It seems Motherwell was the only one who understood the assignment of the whip-off, but who cares. When you have a jump of this size at your disposal, may as well take full advantage.
Day 2 | Speed and Style rookies and a seasoned pro
Day two saw Crankworx hit full stride with riders taking to one of the wildest Speed and Style courses to date, while higher up in the park, the DH riders were busy sorting out the pecking order for finals.
The Speed and Style saw banked halfpipe turns, a berms section that slithered down the hill like a snake, the shark fin and two jumps — it was nothing short of a work of art.
Messere and Jayden Fleming in almost perfect sync.
Wrigley once again taking the opportunity to go upside down. How are his pants still that white on day two?
Horns from Messere on his way to a Speed and Style podium.
For Wilson, it was the first time he’s been involved in a Speed and Style event.
I had no idea what to expect, but neither did most of the other Aussie riders. I think that gave me a bit of confidence because there were a few of us that were all trying to work it out together,”
Wrigley had also never actually lined up for Speed and Style and was initially caught off guard but the sheer size of the features.
It was different coming into the jumps because you can’t cruise the speed your comfortably with like in slopestyle. When you add in the racing element and you have to pedal in as fast as you can, it makes it hard to judge — you’re always having to dab a little bit of brake off the lip,”
Unfortunately for Wrigley he was paired against Tomas Lemoine, who would go onto to win the event — and also knock out Messere — in the very first round.
I got knocked out instantly, I’m happy to be knocked out by the best,”
Eyes on the prize! That prize being a Crankworx podium and novelty cheque.
Head to head with Mike Ross, Messere noses in front over the jumps into the finish.
Messere traded the judging notebook for his trusty Trid dirt jumper for the Speed and Style. After qualifying in eighth place coming into finals, Messere would score the last spot on the podium, next to Caroline Buchanan, who took third in the women’s event.
Even though Anthony is a seasoned professional on the bike, he’s a bit of a butterfingers on the podium, dropping his champagne mid-spray, and giving the first few rows of the audience a drink of lukewarm bubbly.
A champagne shower is the best way to wash off orange volcanic dirt — it’s science.
Meanwhile, up the hill, Brady Stone was working his way through DH seeding.
Day 3 | Musical DH bikes
The vast majority of the Crankworx venue is newly built in the past six months. However, the Downhill is well-known, widely revered, and feared among gravity racers. This became especially apparent with Sam Hill succumbing to a shoulder injury during practice.
With a few flat spots and even a short climb, it’s a physical descent. With Aussies taking five of the six podium spots across the men’s and women’s event, it’s clear that having spent a bit of time racing here and knowing where to push paid dividends, with Troy Brosnan, Connor Fearon, Sian A’hern and both Mick and Tracy Hannah earning themselves big novelty cheques on the day.
Back on the enduro bike for today, Brady putting in his best time in the DH.
Fully pinned, Stone rode into lucky number 13th place on the day.
A bit of rain early on finals day made things especially tricky with the rock garden, which is nothing to sneeze at when it’s dry, becoming an ice skating rink after the spritz.
Eagle-eye readers may notice that just up the page, Brady is riding a DH bike, whereas today in his race kit, he’s back on the Polygon Factory Racing, EWS race spec steed. The bike swap is thanks to an airline that shall not be named losing track of his bike somewhere between the UK and Cairns.
Brady had been targeting a top-ten finish in a stacked field before he was forced into a game of musical bikes. All things considered, at the end of the day, P13 and a clean run with minimal mistakes had him riding high in the finish area.
Ooooo, did you hear that? Somebody just asked Conor Fearon if he’d like some Marmite.
But before he headed up the hill, Stone was out on the pump track, along with Wrigley.
While those goofballs were trying to master the conservation of energy, Motherwell was out on the slopestyle course double-checking his handy work.
Wrigley mixing it up with Duke Millington on the pump track.
Day 3 — how are Tom’s pants still this white?
Yep, the whale pipe is still working too.
Building put together is no exception.
The dudes finished the day hanging out with some of the excited fans and signing posters.
Day 4 | Pump track shenanigans
The team at Flux Trail have flexed their creative muscles on the pump track, building what Cam McCaul called the best course he has ever seen — three berms that get vertical and a shark fin; how good!
Wrigley and Stone both lined up, but didn’t manage to crack the top ten. On the bright side, Tom’s pants are still somehow white.
Elbows out Tom; Blenkinsop is quick!
With such a unique course, Wrigley said the key was patience.
There weren’t as many rollers, and the gaps between the berms and the rollers was a little bigger than usual. There was also a bit more a jump aspect, a few of the sections if you rolled or mannualed them you’d lose more speed than if went for the gap. For me coming from a dirt jump background, I loved it,”
Wrigley also said the chainless aspect of the racing added another element that felt a bit foreign.
In my head the night before I knew I was going to try and flip something. I don’t know what but I’m going to try it,” says Tom Wrigley.
Stone researching his PhD in the conservation of energy.
It’s a pretty successful pump track campaign when you’re not far off the pace of the guy who designed it.
Day 5 | Dual slalom finale
What a week it’s been in Cairns already, and the crowds came out hard for the finale of this epic event, the dual slalom. The sounds of cowbells and chainsaws rung through the air but not loud enough to drown out the thunk of shifts made under power, as the riders tried to eek every bit of speed out of the course.
This wasn’t a grip-and-rip-it style dual slalom, with fast berms, shark fins, cannon logs, flat corners and even a wall ride. It was a technical puzzle to be solved.
Cairns was the first time a shark fin featured in a dual slalom course. We are definitely on board with this feature!
Fully focused towards the bottom of the course, you can’t afford to scrub any speed on this track.
Local legend Mick Hannah would impress on the day with blistering fast times, run after run. As the gravity master of the Cairns squad, Stone stepped up to test his mettle against this behemoth of a Dual Slalom track. Unfortunately, his campaign ended abruptly when he landed nose heavy off a drop and crashed — damaging his bike in the process.
And with that, the Crankworx Cairns came to an end. We’ll all be going through withdrawals from orange dirt, perfectly formed berms and all-around tropical vibes.
Stone came off a drop all bent out of shape and wasn’t able to recover.
All smiles here, we’ll see you back in May!