Attacking the wet & gnarly conditions like it’s just another day on the job

Day eight of Crankworx Rotorua brought a battle of the elements with the RockShox Rotorua Downhill event. With 75 mm of rain, and wind at the top, riders treated this more like a survival challenge than a typical race run with more tripods than the media crew. From seeding ‘til the end of the elite male race runs, the rain came down hard, the ruts were deep, roots were exposed, mud bogs everywhere, and even a newly coined spectator feature called “Heckler’s Puddle.” It was a tough battle out there for riders to keep things rubber side down, and the fans were absolutely loving it.

The Elite Women’s category started things off and two local youngsters, Caitlin Flavell and Jenna Hastings showed many of the seasoned Crankworx ladies how its done in slippery, muddy Rotorua conditions. Flavell, only 17 years old, took the bronze medal today, and Hastings continued her Crankworx podium hot streak with the silver medal.

“I don’t think you could call it racing, I was just trying to make it down,” the modest Hastings said of her race run. “I just tried to take the easy lines and the low lines and just not slide too much. If it goes wrong, it goes wrong, there’s not much you can do about it but I managed to keep it almost rubber side down the whole way.”

The two Kiwi riders were no match for the fastest qualifying elite female, Louise Ferguson, who dominated with confidence while attacking every section of the course. The Ilabb rider ran an absolute clinic on how to ride in the wet and gnarly, taking the top step from Hastings by over 22 seconds.

“I think coming from Scotland really helped me with these conditions. The track was sick but it was crazy slippery. We’ve had pretty constant rain all day and yesterday as well so it was changing every run and I’m pretty used to that from back home. The ground’s really soft, there’s loads of ruts and off camber roots so I felt pretty at home! It wasn’t really one of those tracks you just have to ride, you can’t really race it.”

Onto the Elite Male category, Brook MacDonald held the hotseat position for most of the final 14 elite male race runs. MacDonald had some issues in seeding earlier, but he rode his race run with so much power, carrying such good speed through the larch section.

“To be honest, I had a pretty clean run, nothing too crazy so I just wanted to get from top to bottom clean and put together a safe run,” MacDonald said of the difference between his seeding and race run. “I definitely think the conditions are changing from when I came down to now. I think it’s getting a lot more techier, the top is super windy.”

Fellow Kiwi rider, Sam Blenkinsop, had what it took to knock the Bulldog out of the hotseat. It was quite a ride from Blenki, going full gas especially through the bottom section.

“Oh man, it started off feeling like I was going backwards but I survived and that’s pretty much what I wanted to do,” the RockShox athlete said of his winning run down the muddy track. “I was pretty scared in a lot of places and thought ‘if I crash, I crash, and it’s kind of wet so you would slide out of so I probably wouldn’t break anything, so I thought I would just let it go and have fun. We had no rain then for that race run so it was pretty good to not have to pull any tear offs or roll offs. It was probably the only time I didn’t have to do any of that, so it was pretty fun. It was good to see all the spectators up there in the mud hole where I almost lost it but yeah it was fun. I loved it.”

The true heroes of the day were all the locals and kids getting amongst the wet, muddy, good times along the race track.

“I saw all the kids hanging out in that huge puddle and when I came down seeing that, I just knew I needed to make a big splash,” Blenki said of the fans. “It’s cool to see the fans loving it even in these conditions with the rain and not being the warmest so it’s good to see the fans and heaps of them on the trail as well. It’s so cool to see everyone out here loving it.

Results – Rockshox Rotorua Downhill – Elite Female

  1. Louise Ferguson (GBR) - 4:23.817
  2. Jenna Hastings (NZL) – 4:45.452
  3. Caitlin Flavell (NZL) – 4:52.402
Results – Rockshox Rotorua Downhill – Elite Male
  1. Sam Blenkinsop (NZL) – 3:14.796
  2. Brook Macdonald (NZL) – 3:22.685
  3. Matt Walker (NZL) – 3:24.246

Queen of Crankworx overall standings is currently a tie between Caroline Buchanan and Jordy Scott with 826 points, as Vaea Verbeeck maintains the third place position with 772 points. With Speed & Style tomorrow, things will get interesting with these top three women. Will it be the speed or the style that makes the difference for these ladies battling it out for the crown? The King of Crankworx leaderboard now has Sam Blenkinsop in second position with the 100 points from his win today. That brings Blenkinsop 6 points ahead of Jackson Frew, and 127 points behind Bas van Steenbergen.

Current standings:

On deck for tomorrow, Saturday, November 12, is the CLIF Speed & Style Rotorua. Many of these athletes are fighting for their final chance for the King and Queen of Crankworx crowns. This is sure to be an incredible performance for both the male and female categories. Catch all the action from home on Red Bull TV.

Stay tuned for updates on Crankworx Rotorua as they come, and stay up to date with all things Crankworx: