Photo Epic: Taniwha DH - Crankworx Rotorua 2022

Nov 7, 2022
by Cameron Mackenzie  


It's been a minute. Thirty Two Months specifically since the last Crankworx Rotorua was run in front of a crowd. During that time, we've had a very closed off, media-only edition of the festival, and a shift to this November time slot, allowing for the addition of Cairns to the calendar. Locally, the break has given the community time to re-appreciate the luxury of live racing, and all that pent up energy was let loose this weekend to mark the start of Crankworx Rotorua 2022.

Like a fine wine, the Taniwha DH Track in the Whakarewarewa Forest has been left to mature over the last four and a half years since Crankworx's tyres last turned soil. What greeted riders after this hiatus was a refreshed trail, utilising all the best bits of what's been raced before, and a handful of freshly cut loam lines, made all the more interesting by a wet week in the lead-up to the race.

Racing within the Redwoods is an opportunity relished by all the riders, with the forest here offering racing and a trail unlike anywhere else. But as we’ve seen over the years, and more recently in Cairns, local knowledge reigns supreme, and those familiar with the region make things that much more difficult for the new kids in town.

Dethroning the likes of Louis Hamilton and Jenna Hastings was never going to be easy, given how much time they’ve spent on this very track, but with the series titles still open, and everything to play for, the likes of Blenki and Bas in the men’s, and Vaea and Sian A’Hern in women’s weren’t going to go easy.


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Bas set the pace early, ducking through the patches of early morning light.

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Lachie Stevens-McNab is still in full rehab mode post his gnarly crash at World Champs, but couldn't help trying the track for himself during the first day of practice.

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Coming off of a solid international season in Juniors, James MacDermid was keen to prove his position within the elite ranks here, and that's just what he did, taking 5th place behind Matt Walker and a raft of seasoned pros.

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Ash Bond was doing it for the mums this weekend, back racing only seven weeks after having a baby.

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You didn't hear any complaints about the dirt here.

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Ethan Corney enjoyed finding the limits of the track, and I'm sure appreciated just how soft and forgiving it can be.

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Shania Rawson making the trail bike work.

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Heath Johnston is always hungry for a good result living in the shadow of his big brother, Guy, and sure was pushing.

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Guy though couldn't let junior have this one, and put twenty seconds into him to finish 8th in Elite behind Louis Hamilton.

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Whilst the Taniwha track followed a lot of the same old route, the course builders worked hard to keep riders on their toes by cutting in fresh lines everywhere they could. For Blenki, amongst many others, any chance for a loam line is welcomed.

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Jenna Hastings dancing through the roots. Home turf, no worries.

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What ruts? The bulldog didn't notice any.

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Jackson Connelly wasn't here the last time out, but made short work of learning the course here, and dominated the U19s by over five seconds.


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Coming off the back of a very slim loss to Tracey Hannah in Cairns, Sian A'Hern was keen to secure a win here early in the festival, with two downhill races on the menu this week, and two chances at a top step if she couldn't pip the formidable local, Jenna, at least once.

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Matt Walker knows the trails here like the back of his hand, having cut his teeth growing up racing this track.

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Vaea Verbeeck won this race last time out, and was hungry for the repeat, as well as those valuable Queen of Crankworx points.

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Dan Booker was holding things down for the trail bike battlers here in signature fashion, and didn't let it hold him back.

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Seeing the Bulldog go down hard is never a great sight, but seemed to just be part of the process here; brushing it off, and continuing to build for race day.


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After three days of racing, and progressively better weather, the trail was constantly changing, and with it, the slop. Come Sunday, things had dried out nicely.


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Louis Hamilton looked to be on for a podium finish judging by his 2nd place seeding, but couldn't back it up when it counted come Sunday, having to settle for 7th.

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Jackson Frew was hauling all weekend long, and the pace showed, pulling up three and a bit seconds behind Blenki.

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Charlie Makea, always fast, always loose, and always right there keeping everyone honest.

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Harriet Burbidge-Smith making short work of the rock garden.

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Caroline Buchanan looked to be struggling with the track this weekend, but suspect she's saving her energy for the long week of racing thats still to come.


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Shania Rawson proved to be a bit of a dark horse this weekend. Rocking up a trail bike, she went about her business quietly, to then seed third.

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All eyes were on The Champ this weekend. For many, this is the first time they've had the privilege of watching Jenna race in person, albeit, without the stripes due to her racing up a grade in elites.

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Connor Hamilton was another brother battling it out for top familial honours this weekend.

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Martha Gill slid right onto the third step, after piloting her EWS bike from this season with a triple crown fork bolted on down through the chunk.

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After a rough couple of days of practice, and a seeding result that reflected that, the Bulldog was hungry come finals, and laid down a heater to secure third place.

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Blenki took the clean sweep, winning both seeding and finals.

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After her success in the Downhill at Crankworx Rotorua last year, Jenna was chasing that second win on home turf, but will need to wait another week now till she can try again.

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Blenki's only been back in the country a few weeks, and surprised himself with his off-season form here this weekend.

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Ed Masters was out cheering on his Pivot Factory teammates today, but is focusing his efforts on events later in the week.

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While the vlog life never sleeps for Jenna, it came at a cost here, with the entire podium taking aim at her and the GoPro. Let's hope the footage is worth it.

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Champagne Showers, with the shower of full noise.


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The Elite Podium from here in the Redwoods.

Results

Mens
1. Sam Blenkinsop - 2:44.11
2. Jackson Frew - 2:47.47
3. Brook MacDonald - 2:48.14

Womens
1. Sian A'Hern - 3:11.37
2. Jenna Hastings - 3:16.75
3. Martha Gill - 3:23.99






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Author Info:
cameronmackenzie avatar

Member since Mar 6, 2011
71 articles

18 Comments
  • 17 0
 The WC needs both a NZ/Aus leg and a US/CA leg. Why this happens in EWS and not DH is beyond me. Someone please enlighten the stoopid
  • 6 0
 According to my Red Bull TV app this event hasn’t happened yet, it’s scheduled for next weekend.
Everybody go home please, nothing to see here.
  • 2 0
 Yeeeaah woulda been sweet to have a live feed of the first race for sure.
  • 6 0
 Speaking of Taniwha, I hear there's a new Zerode DH bike in the pipline...
  • 3 0
 Zerode is at the races, maybe they’ll have it on display?
  • 2 0
 Shania Rawson dark horse indeed! This local Rotorua shredder works 2 or 3 jobs and still manages to get in the mix with little traning. We all know riders that would murder the competition given the opportunity to train regularly, this is definitely one of those talented riders!
  • 4 0
 I just bought a Taniwha, so excited!
  • 3 0
 Loam for days.
  • 4 0
 Loam (/lōm/): a soil with roughly equal proportions of sand, silt, and clay.
  • 1 0
 @TEAM-ROBOT:
WHERE ARE MY STICKERS????
  • 2 0
 Rooty, root, roots. Nice pics Cam
  • 2 0
 stunning photos!
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