Photo Epic: Downhill - Crankworx Rotorua 2022

Nov 12, 2022
by Cameron Mackenzie  



To say Mother Nature has reigned supreme so far this week would be an understatement. Downhill racing at these levels is its own beast, and throw some of Rotorua's worst springtime weather at it, and you've got yourself a recipe for disaster, or entertainment depending on what way you look at it.

After a short break post last weekend's Taniwha Downhill, riders took to the slopes of Mt Ngongotaha high above Rotorua once more. Now in its eighth year, the feature downhill race here at Crankworx Rotorua remains relatively unchanged, once again using by-in-large the same course as years past. 2021's"Covid-Worx" instalment saw the infamous larches section changed, and for 2022, only a few small taping and weather-related changes were made in addition, with the exception of the construction zone mid-course. There are reasons why we only shot in the trees...

With three days of practice scheduled before Saturday's big broadcast, things started to shift from the outset, as the first bit of this springtime weather began to bite and greeted riders for their very first run. Wednesday's practice was all about starting slow and trying not to push too hard on the wet grass, whilst Thursday's was all about refining lines and enjoying the hero dirt as things dried out. Come Friday, all bets were off, and it became a game of survival, just trying to stay on your bike and have a clean run, a day before they were meant to.

Last time out, Louis Hamilton pipped Blenki for the win in another wet race, so this time around, Sam was hungry for redemption. Off the back of his win last weekend, all eyes were on Blenki, but in such atrocious conditions, anything could happen. Jackson Frew was again looking fast on track, and was one not to be looked over, and Louis was keen to prove to the critics last year was no fluke.

With a second place last weekend, and being the reigning queen of this track, Jenna Hastings was the one to watch in the women's. Had things stayed dry, it's likely Sian A'Hern could well have been on for a repeat also, but as the heaven's opened, Martha Gill and Louise Ferguson became the ones to watch, being somewhat of slop specialists. For Caroline Buchanan, Jordy Scott & Vaea Verbeeck, they had the added pressure of the overall title weighing over them, with crucial points still available, and it was incredibly tight.

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Nothing 'A few tyres down it' won't fix.

Root Networks
The mud and slop are one thing, but the root networks that litter the majority of the wooded sections of this course are a whole other beast, even before they get polished up.

Blenki riding high making short work of the damp grass up high
Blenki riding high, making short work of the damp grass.

Lachie Stevens-McNab
Lachie Stevens-McNab was out on course for practice sessions once again, but strayed away from racing while coming back from injury.

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Storms kept on rolling through.

Allan Cooke
Allan Cooke's a weapon on a bike, fact, so probably didn't even care about the moisture.

Photographers on track appreciate a bright kit on a dark and rainy day in the woods Brookes pink number here made her easy to spot.
Photographers on track appreciate a bright kit on a dark and rainy day in the woods, Brookes pink number here made her easy to spot.

After the first day of practice the FOX boys were busy getting everyones bouncy bits refreshed
After the first day of practice the FOX boys were busy getting everyones bouncy bits refreshed
After the first day of practice, the Fox boys were busy getting everyone's bouncy bits refreshed.

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Inside lines, before mom said no.

Jackson Connelly
Jackson Connelly was the one to watch in Junior's, but had to settle for second place this time by a slender 0.6 seconds.

The number one plate of Jackson Frew and his kit almost perfectly blend into the surroundings as he tackles a tight right-hander that was catching 1 in 3 out.
The number one plate of Jackson Frew and his kit almost perfectly blend into the surroundings as he tackles a tight right-hander that was catching 1 in 3 out.

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The woods got darker and slipperier as the day went on, making even getting down the hill a challenge.

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Jenna Hastings, never not on form.

I ve seen Allan make some pretty gnarly shapes on a bike this one mid-slippery corner was up there.
I've seen Allan make some pretty gnarly shapes on a bike, this one, mid-slippery corner was up there.

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It sure was muddy out there every tyre down the line leaving it s own mark.
How it started vs how it's going

Literal rivers of rain ran through the trail today making walking about the site almost as treacherous as riding.
Literal rivers of rain ran through the trail today, making walking about the site almost as treacherous as riding.

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Caroline Buchanan finishes the downhill on equal points with Jordy Scott, leaving it all the play for going into Speed and Style.

There s a white bike underneath all the mud. Cleaning is going to be fun.
There's a white bike underneath all the mud. Cleaning is going to be fun.
If it weren t so muddy it would look like a Session.
If it weren't so muddy, it would look like a Session.

A crash in qualifying put Brook out of position where he had his race run before the broadcast then spent a long time in the hot seat aptly renamed the wet seat.
A crash in qualifying put Brook out of position where he had his race run before the broadcast, then spent a long time in the "hot" seat, aptly renamed the wet seat.

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Last weekend's conditions improved as the race went on, this weekend, the opposite happen, and Sian A'Hern looked to struggle as things loosened up.

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Fastest in seeding, fastest on game day. Blenki's not slowing down.



Always genuinely happy and full of smiles especially after taking her first Crankworx World Tour stop gold medal.
Always genuinely happy and full of smiles, especially after taking her first Crankworx World Tour gold medal.

Martha has a laugh and debrief after an eventful run down the course.
Martha has a laugh and debrief after an eventful run down the course.

Louis Hamilton
Louis Hamilton has a point to prove, especially after a crash in his race run last weekend saw his 2nd place seed slip through his fingers.

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Louise Ferguson made everyone else look like they were racing a different race, taking the win by over 20 seconds.

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Vaea Verbeek was on a tear here, not letting the conditions faze her.

Brook s seeding went a little like this but it may have worked in his favour setting him up for an early start for his race run and perhaps avoiding a lot of the mud.
Brook's seeding went a little like this, but it may have worked in his favour, setting him up for an early start for his race run and perhaps avoiding a lot of the mud. 2nd on the day.

Bryn had an unfortunate moment on the very last corner where he managed to have a spill and cross the line with his body but due to regulations he needed to run back up and grab his bike for the time to count. Still a top 10 time even with this.
Bryn had an unfortunate moment on the very last corner where he managed to have a spill and cross the line with his body, but due to regulations, he needed to run back up and grab his bike for the time to count. Still a top 10 time even with this.

Could this be a look of frustration in Matt s eyes as he rolls out of the finish corral maybe he s thinking he might have had a little more in the tank today and had the potential to jump up a step on the podium
Could this be a look of frustration in Matt's eyes as he rolls out of the finish corral, maybe he's thinking he might have had a little more in the tank today and had the potential to jump up a step on the podium?

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Martha Gill was master in these conditions, and looked to be on for a repeat of her 3rd place last weekend, but had to settle for 6th.

The smile on the face of someone coming in twenty-something seconds faster than the silver medal spot on an atrociously slippery track.
The smile on the face of someone coming in twenty-something seconds faster than the silver medal spot on an atrociously slippery track.

Solid run for Sam putting him in a pretty good spot early on but the time wasn t able to stand quite long enough still being good enough for 6th.
A solid run for Sam, putting him in a pretty good spot early on, but the time wasn't able to stand quite long enough, still being good enough for 6th.

The kids weren t too bothered about the mud sliding around in it and having an absolute ball.
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The kids weren't too bothered about the mud, sliding around in it and having an absolute ball.

Looking to repeat his second place finish after his Taniwha DH success Jackson Frew was pushing hard during all the practice sessions to find the limits early and dial lines. The rains may have effect that.
Looking to repeat his second-place finish after his Taniwha DH success, Jackson Frew was pushing hard during all the practice sessions to find the limits early and dial lines. The rains may have effected that.

It s cliche but foot out flat out Sam comes across the finish line to take the win with the foot out front moto-like.
It's cliché, but "foot out, flat out" Sam comes across the finish line to take the win, with the foot out front, moto-like.

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Jess Blewitt wasn't racing this weekend, but was here to support her mates, and got surprised with a new helmet by The Bulldog after the podium.
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Jenna's second silver for the week.

It was genuinely hard to tell what was rain and what was champagne falling from the sky.
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It was genuinely hard to tell what was rain and what was champagne falling from the sky.

Your elite podium from the Rockshox Rotorua Downhill
Your elite podium from the Rockshox Rotorua Downhill

Results

Mens
1. Sam Blenkinsop - 3:14.796
2. Brook MacDonald - 3:22.685
3. Matt Walker - 3:24.246


Womens
1. Louise Ferguson - 4:23.817
2. Jenna Hastings - 4:45.452
3. Caitlin Flavell - 4:52.402







Author Info:
cameronmackenzie avatar

Member since Mar 6, 2011
71 articles

7 Comments
  • 7 0
 Lets get a World Cup down here ae
  • 3 0
 Some gap by both the winners. Impressive.
  • 3 0
 Not a bad pay day.... see World Cup, it can be done.
  • 1 0
 Problem is World Cups are ran by the UCI. They give zero F's for MTB and even less for gravity oriented disciplines
  • 1 2
 Crankworx is not really global any more is it. This has an overwhelming NZ flavor to it. Such a shame NZ is so far away
  • 4 0
 Its at the wrong time of the year, It needs to be in late summer, when people want to come to NZ, pros are here after a season of training and the EWS is here too. Didn't it used to be In february?







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