‘I rode a line be­tween tri­umph and dis­as­ter’

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Austria -

Moun­tain bik­ing is a com­plex sport – not just in its many ti­tle clas­si­fi­ca­tions, which could give box­ing a run for its money, but in terms of defin­ing what it ac­tu­ally is. On the let­ters pages of cy­cling magazines, mid­dle-aged men hold forth on what their pas­time is all about, just as fash­ion de­sign­ers try to ex­plain their spring/sum­mer col­lec­tions. I should know, be­cause I used to edit one.

Ev­ery day I bat­tled with rene­gade writ­ers at Moun­tain Bike Rider, who were al­ways lob­by­ing to push the en­ve­lope, to move the sport on from its bor­ing cross-coun­try roots, all the while test­ing in­creas­ingly ex­pen­sive bikes far be­yond the means and needs of our read­ers. Pre­sid­ing over us was a board of direc­tors who didn’t care as long as we shifted more magazines.

We didn’t, which made my ten­ure as edi­tor shorter than ex­pected, but a visit at the end of June to Inns­bruck, in Aus­tria’s Ty­rol, pro­vided a happy trip down memory lane. Crankworx – a sort of Glas­ton­bury for moun­tain bik­ers – was in town for the first time, with up to 17,000 spec­ta­tors gasp­ing as the pros pulled stunts none of us could ever hope to em­u­late. I can barely do a wheelie (as my erst­while col­leagues would scorn­fully at­test) but I had brought my bike this far. Had I bit­ten off more than I could chew?

Crankworx be­gan 14 years ago in Whistler, Canada, ar­guably the home of mod­ern moun­tain bik­ing. Lat­terly, it has evolved into a tour­ing cir­cus of der­ring-do, with head­line spon­sors, big prize money and editions in New Zealand and the French Alps. Host­ing the event marks a gi­ant X in the box marked “gnarly”, so it was a coup for Inns­bruck, keen to po­si­tion it­self as Aus­tria’s out­door cap­i­tal.

Was it a leap too far? There were grum­bles when the trick con­test had to be pulled be­cause of bad weather, but the legacy for moun­tain bik­ers is un­de­ni­able. Not only did the city build new trails to se­cure the event, it is also busy ex­tend­ing them.

Tom Proc­hazka, who cut Whistler’s leg­endary A-Line trail, will oversee the ex­pan­sion of the fledg­ling Inns­bruck Bike Park in Mut­ters, about a

Matt Hamp­ton gets an adrenalin buzz as he puts Inns­bruck’s tough new moun­tain bike trails to the test

Clock­wise from above: cy­cling a moun­tain trail; tack­ling one of the ob­sta­cles; a wel­come break; and Inns­bruck old town

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