When hometown favourite Miranda Miller first began racing on her mountain bike, she says she noticed the women weren't being taken seriously by some of the male competitors and staff.
"We were racing the same course, same conditions but it still didn't seem to be recognized," Miller said. "There was also an old idea that because we competed in an ‘extreme' sport that we were all burlier and butcher than your 'typical' woman."
Since then, the sport has seen a shift in how women's events are covered and celebrated. Not only are the prizes (and paycheques) catching up to what the men win, but, for many, being able to stand next to the winning men and women on the same podium at Crankworx has been the ultimate award.
Crankworx is an international mountain biking festival held in Whistler each summer.
This moment is what Miller calls "a little extra proof of our equality."
More than a decade since her career began, Miller is one of the many legendary female mountain bikers who appear in "Shift Perception," Crankworx's latest video series with Telus.
One of the women behind the series is Julia Montague, the Crankworx communications manager, who suggested focusing the three-part series on the sport's female athletes. Montague, who is an amateur racer, thought it would be the perfect platform to share their stories around the world. The Sea to Sky Corridor, known for its epic terrain, homegrown riders and the world's biggest mountain biking festival, seemed like the perfect place to set the scene.
"I think it is going to continue to grow exponentially," Montague said. "At Crankworx, we've seen female involvement and participation at all levels grow every year."
Even the Kidsworx races recently added a girls' category to the challenging A-line race at the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. Having enough interest and competitors for the track, Montague said, is an example of the shift the competition has seen.
"I think at all levels of competition, women have seen themselves essentially mirrored on the trails. A little girl sees another little girl sending it on A-line and she says to herself, 'That girl can do it, I can do it too,'" she said. "Women who are finding successes as riders, they see other women rising to the top and getting the support and the respect that they really are owed. It encourages more people to go down that path also."
The series follows women who mountain bike from the beginning of competing in Crankworx to becoming more competitive and where the sport is going next.
"Women really are, I think, finally being recognized as athletes, not necessarily as female athletes — just as amazing athletes on their own," Montague said.
When Miller saw the final cut of the series, she said, "I felt an enormous amount of pride watching many of my idols, competitors and friends… It also gave me hope for the future of our sport.
"I've heard a lot of positive feedback from parents showing their daughters and sons. There's a new generation of riders and racers that hopefully will grow up in a world with a little more equality."
Crankworx hits the tracks in Whistler Aug. 9-18.