Astrong contingent of elite athletes, a new downhill race, the Deep Summer photography showcase and more Kidsworx events will see Crankworx Rotorua expand for 2016 as New Zealand welcomes the international mountain biking community.
Fans can join the King and Queen of the Crankworx World Tour, Bernard KERR (GBR) and Anneke BEERTEN (NED), Aussie downhillers Mick and Tracey HANNAH, last year's Crankworx Slopestyle Champion, Brett RHEEDER (CAN), and elite riders like Casey BROWN (CAN), Martin SÖDERSTRÖM (SWE) and Loic BRUNI (FRA) for the launch of the Crankworx World Tour's second season.
This year marks a chance at redemption, or proof the 2015 climb to supremacy was a true testament of a rider's skill—and the riders are ready to roll.
"I know, from last season, it takes a lot of energy and determination to win the Queen of the Crankworx World Tour, but I'm feeling fit and can't wait to race all the different disciplines again," says Beerten, inaugural Queen of the Crankworx World Tour.
Rheeder will be back to make another play for the Triple Crown of Slopestyle on the course where his 2015 back-to-back winning streak began. And Nicholi ROGATKIN (USA), author of the first 720-cork-360 (dubbed "The Twister") at Masters of Dirt this month, will step up the competition, along with Thomas GENON. Genon quietly delivered a hat-trick of third place finishes for a strong 2015 Crankworx season, and finished at the top of the FMB rankings, 324 points ahead of Rheeder, in second, with Rogatkin third.
In the downhill scene, Crankworx veteran champion Jill KINTNER (USA) and Emilie SIEGENTHALER (SUI), third in the Crankworx Rotorua Downhill presented by iXS, will face Hannah, 2015 Crankworx DH Champion, Beerten and Brown. And in the men's field, Crankworx DH Champion Sam BLENKINSOP (NZ) comes off a strong year to challenge last year's Rotorua winner, Bruni, and top enduro racer Fabien BAREL (FRA). After years at the top of the Enduro World Series, Barel retired from professional racing in the fall, but has committed to doing the Crankworx Downhill Championships as part of a new product development role.
"Crankworx is the only international DH series that brings us to meet very different riding communities," Barel says. This could mean racing the new Crankworx tour stop alongside the same French and British fans who watched him deliver one of the sport's great moments: his bare knuckle 2005 UCI World Championships win in Les Gets.
Riding alongside heroes of the sport is one of the truly unique aspects of every Crankworx festival, and four of the eight Crankworx Rotorua events are open to the public, including the Crankworx Rotorua Air Downhill, the Crankworx Rotorua Downhill presented by iXS, the Official Oceania Whip-Off Championships presented by Spank, for which members of the public must qualify, and GIANT Toa Enduro. The events have a way of propelling new or up-and-coming riders onto the world stage, as both New Zealand's Wyn MASTERS and Raewyn MORRISON can attest.
As the first stop of the Enduro World Series in 2015, the GIANT Toa Enduro proved a huge boost for Masters, who pulled in for third, eventually securing a Top 25 spot in the series. Morrison's eleventh place finish launched an incredible year for the Kiwi; she finished ninth in the 2015 EWS rankings.
"There's something about racing at home in front of a crowd that's special and, for sure, a great way to start the international race season," says Masters.
This year's enduro is not an EWS round, so it offers a taste of world-class riding without the demands of world series racing. Local athletes can expect to join Josh CARLSON (AUS), Aaron BRADFORD (USA), Fabien COUSINIÉ (FRA) and Michal PROKOP (CZE) on course with a strong New Zealand pro presence─Blenkinsop, Rupert CHAPMAN, Cameron COLE, Matt WALKER, Keegan WRIGHT, and the Masters brothers, Ed and Wyn.
Back for another crack at the Mons Royale Dual Speed and Style, meanwhile, Söderström will be trying to best Kerr, who won the Crankworx Dual Speed & Style Championships, and riders like Adrien LORON (FRA), who place second.
"I have said it before and I will say it again, Speed and Style is the perfect sport. Tight racing combined with big tricks is a crowd and rider favourite," says Söderström.
Crankworx includes eight competitions and four live broadcasts, all to be shown on Crankworx.com, with the Crankworx Rotorua Slopestyle also live on Red Bull TV. For this year's enduro, Crankworx will run a live blog on its website with video and picture integration, and the latest information from the forest as the seven-stage race unfolds.
Crankworx runs from March 9-13, 2016. Events include the Rotorua Pump Track Challenge presented by RockShox, Crankworx Rotorua Downhill presented by iXS, Crankworx Rotorua Air Downhill, Crankworx Rotorua Slopestyle, Mons Royale Dual Speed and Style, Official Oceania Whip-Off Championships presented by SPANK and the Giant Toa Enduro. There will also be an expo at the Skyline Gravity Park, food and entertainment.
Crankworx is broadcast live from Crankworx.com, Pinkbike.com and the Crankworx Rotorua Slopestyle is live on Red Bull TV.
Mons Royale Dual Speed and Style: Thursday, Mar. 10, 5-7 p.m. NZDT; Wednesday, Mar. 9 8-10 p.m. PST; Thursday, Mar. 10 5-7 a.m. CET
Rotorua Pump Track Challenge presented by RockShox: Friday, Mar. 11, 7-9 p.m. NZDT; Thursday, Mar. 10-midnight PST; Friday, Mar. 11 7-9 a.m. CET
Crankworx Rotorua Slopestyle: Saturday, Mar.12 3-5:30 p.m. NZDT; Friday, Mar. 11, 6-8:30 p.m. PST; Saturday, March 12 3-5:30 a.m. CET
Crankworx Rotorua Downhill presented by iXS: Sunday, Mar. 13 2:30-5:30 p.m. NZDT; Saturday, Mar. 12 5:30-8:30 p.m. PST; Sunday, Mar. 13 2:30-5:30 a.m. CET