Style, progression, speed, and good times with the Crankworx Family - it’s all set to go down as the final stop of the Crankworx World Tour takes shape.
November1-7, the eyes of action sports fans around the world will be on Crankworx Rotorua as the best all-round mountain bikers in the world gather to compete and celebrate.
Here’s who and what’s coming, and the stories that are starting to take shape.
Maxxis Slopestyle in Memory of McGazza
2021’s Slopestyle contest in Rotorua will bring together a mix of those who’re new to the game, those who know the game and are pushing for the top, and the one who’s changing the game.
Marcel Hunt, Bernd Winkler and Lukas Schäfer are all preparing for their first Slopestyle comp at this level of competition. Hunt was in Crankworx B.C. as an alternate, but this will be his first time on the start list for a Crankworx Slopestyle contest. Winkler qualified for Red Bull Joyride in 2018 but was injured in practice. Rotorua will be Schäfer’s first time at a Crankworx Slopestyle event.
Recent newcomer to Crankworx competition Griffin Paulson will be getting his first crack at the famed Rotorua course, while Paul Couderc is hoping to get his first taste of finals in Rotorua. He was on the start list for the event in 2020 but was injured in practice.
“Last year I took a really bad slam one hour before the finals, so I wasn’t able to compete,” said Courderc of the contest in Rotorua in 2020. “This year I’m coming back and I’m so excited to ride this course because it’s such a fun course. The only thing is I have a broken ligament in my wrist. I did it at Crankworx in Canada. It’s actually pretty painful. I didn’t even ride before coming here. So, I will try to give my best, but it’s an odd situation for me. I’m definitely really, really motivated to do my tricks. I will do my best.”
Two riders in the field have competed in this event every year since in began in 2015: Tomas Lemoine and Nicholi Rogatkin.
Lemoine earned his top Crankworx Slopestyle result at this level of competition to date on this course in 2019, coming in 2nd.
Rogatkin brings with him the strongest track record: of his six results in Rotorua, three have been 2nd place finishes, and one a 1st.
And while Emil Johansson has only competed on the course twice (2017 and 2020) he’s podiumed both times (3rd and 1st). And his current track record speaks for itself: a win in Rotorua would make it his sixth Crankworx Slopestyle win in a row, earn him the overall 2021 Slopestyle World Championship title, as well as the Triple Crown of Slopestyle.
Preliminary rider list: Maxxis Slopestyle in Memory of McGazza
CLIF Speed & Style presented by Mons Royale
The game has changed for Speed & Style at Crankworx in 2021. Why? The women have changed the game.
This year, progression has been on for the women of freeride. So much so that when they threw down at Speed & Style at Crankworx Innsbruck earlier this year, they blew the trick list out of the water.
“The women had progressed so much since our last women’s Speed & Style competition in 2020 in Rotorua that the trick list was outdated,” says Nicole Freeman, the Director of Sport for the Crankworx World Tour. “They were throwing down tricks that previously we didn’t have on the Women’s Speed & Style trick list, because no one was doing them in competition. They have pushed the sport, so we’ve now updated our trick list to reflect this. Since Innsbruck in June, we worked with the judges to add more tricks to the list and adjusted the values. We’ve also removed some tricks that are no longer deemed difficult enough to merit points. It’s incredibly exciting to see how quickly things are progressing for women in freeride, and we’re stoked to see what the ladies are going to bring to the table at Speed & Style in Rotorua.”
Watch for Robin Goomes, who recorded the first backflip in Crankworx competition in Innsbruck and who’ll be competing on home turf, and Caroline Buchanan, who pulled off the first front flip at Audi Nines earlier this year.
On the men’s side, Tomas Lemoine and his fellow Slope rider Tim Bringer will sure be ones to watch. They’ve both got a deep bag of tricks and have proven they’ve got the speed to push for the top. The event in Rotorua is also one that’s provided a platform that’s launched local stars. 2018 saw Joe Simpson take 2nd in the event, while 2019 saw Billy Meaclam rise to the top at take the W.
Preliminary rider list: CLIF Speed & Style presented by Mons Royale
Crankworx Rotorua Downhill presented by Gull
Consistency and the Kiwi advantage are likely to be the deciding factors in this year’s downhill race in Rotorua, if results from the past six years are any indication.
Three of New Zealand’s top elite male downhill racers have competed the most consistently on the Mount Ngongotaha track at Crankworx. Sam Blenkinsop, George Brannigan and Brook Macdonald are all on the start list in 2021. Each has placed consistently in the top five, with Blenki taking the win in 2018 and The Bulldog in 2019. Brannigan has a 2nd place finish (2016) and two 3rds (2019 and 2020).
On the women’s side, Casey Brown has been the Queen of consistency. She’s competed in the event every year but one, placing in the top 10 every time, including two 3rd place finishes (2016 and 2017).
What awaits them? This rider favourite track is the stuff of Kiwi legend, having hosted World Champs in 2006 (won by Sam Hill). A few small changes have been made to the track this year, sure to keep riders on their toes as they battle their way down.
Preliminary rider list: Crankworx Rotorua Downhill presented by Gull
Specialized Dual Slalom Rotorua
Speed and skill will be on come Dual Slalom day in Rotorua, in this discipline that brings together the best of the best from across disciplines. Dual Slalom challenges racers to go back to basics, put the pedal to the medal, and do it all flawlessly, and the track in Rotorua is no exception.
It features five berms and rollers, two tabletops and one spine over a 450 meter dirt dash described by Kyle Strait in 2020 as “…probably one of the best on the circuit right now. It’s really, really technical. Technical in the way that every single run is kind of different, and if you try and go too fast, it’s going to throw you on your ass.”
All eyes will be on Bas van Steenbergen and Vaea Verbeeck. Both are renowned for their Slalom prowess, are coming in hot after Crankworx B.C., each with a win in the first Dual Slalom of Crankworx B.C., and each in the lead for King and Queen of Crankworx, respectively. Van Steenbergen came in second in the Rotorua race in 2020, while Verbeeck came in third.
Others to watch for will be Matt Walker, who came in third in 2020 in front of the hometown Kiwi crown, and Kialani Hines, who’s coming off a Slalom win at the Sea Otter Classic in California.
Preliminary rider list: Specialized Dual Slalom Rotorua
RockShox Rotorua Pump Track Challenge presented by Torpedo7
Rotorua’s thriving BMX scene has brought disruption and excitement to the Pump Track time and time again. The venue has seen young local stars like Connor Mahuika and Keegan Wright rise to meet the challenge of the world’s best riders.
This year, a stacked field is set to light up the night in Rotorua including Caroline Buchanan, Harriet Burbidge-Smith, Kialani Hines, Tomas Lemoine, Billy Meaclam, and Tuhoto Ariki-Pene.
Preliminary rider list: RockShox Rotorua Pump Track Challenge presented by Torpedo7
Trek Official Oceania Whip-Off Championships
Last but definitely not least, Rotorua will host its annual sideways hootenanny.
The Whip-Offs objectives are simple: get sideways, have fun. It’s freeride at its loosest, and the deep rider list speaks to how much riders love this event.
Preliminary rider list: Trek Official Oceania Whip-Off Championships