Photo Epic: Downhill - Crankworx Rotorua 2023

Mar 20, 2023
by Ed Spratt  

While we may have a long wait until we see the return of World Cup racing in June the Crankworx World Tour kicked off the international race season with the RockShox Taniwha Downhill. Rotorua's Whakarewarewa Forest played host to some incredible racing as some of the world's best racers were tested with tricky conditions, rooty chutes and challenging ruts that were made more difficult after some wet weather.

In the Women's racing, it was the freshly crowned New Zealand national champion Jess Blewitt who came out on top besting last year's Junior World Champion Jenna Hastings by a significant 6.442 seconds. Jess' win marks her first Cranworx World Tour gold medal in Elites with her previous win being from the Junior category in 2020. Following the race, Jess said: "My run went to plan. My plan being to keep it rubber side down and that worked. I had got a little bit loose in a few spots, but overall pretty happy. Rotorua is a hard track in that you don't know how much you can really push, but I think it was a smart race run."

It was back-to-back top results for Loic Bruni as he made it a perfect weekend taking the fastest time in seeding and finals. While Bruni managed to put a few seconds into everyone during seeding finals were a lot tighter as FMD Racing's newest recruit Oliver Zwar ended the day just 0.344 seconds behind the five-time world champion. Completing the top three was Neko Mulally who piloted his custom Frameworks bike with a new carbon rear triangle to third just under a second off Loic's winning time.

On his run, Loic said: "My run was pretty late in the day, so it was tough to stay in the headspace especially with it getting darker in the woods. I did pretty good on the top sections, but I couldn't really adapt to the track. I did a few small mistakes, but I was feeling fast by the time I reached the bottom. Feeling like I am starting the season in the best way, so I am feeling stoked."

While the downhill racing may be over the Crankworx action is set to continue for the rest of the week with the Official New Zealand Whip-Off Championships on Wednesday.

Check out all the action from the RockShox Taniwha Downhill below and you can find the full results here.

Luckily the track was drier for finals than the mud bath riders were treated to during practice.

Caroline Buchanan
Caroline Buchanan

Aaron Davey

Sam Blenkinsop
Sam Blenkinsop bursting out of the trees

Jenna Hastings
Jenna Hastings takes home second in her first big race as an Elite rider

Loic Bruni
Loic Bruni

Loris Vergier
Loris Vergier didn't have the best start to the season in Rotorua.

Iley Nunns

Bas Van Steenbergen
Bas Van Steenbergen

Vanesa Petrovska dropping in.


Rennie Falconer sending huge 60ft double

Michael Delesalle

Louise Ferguson
Louise Ferguson went fastest in seeding but some issues during her race run put her back in ninth place.

Jakob Jewett

Bernard Kerr
Bernard Kerr is looking fast after his incredibly successful season in 2022.

Jess Blewitt
Jess Blewitt on her way to her first win of 2023. Jess is going to be one to watch this year.

Loic Bruni
Loic Bruni provides another masterclass as he makes his way to the top spot of the podium.

Podium 1st Loic Bruni Jess Blewitt 2nd Oliver Zwar Jenna Hastings 3rd Neko Mulally Shania Rawson
Podium: 1st Loic Bruni, Jess Blewitt,2nd: Oliver Zwar, Jenna Hastings, 3rd: Neko Mulally, Shania Rawson

Podium 1st Loic Bruni Jess Blewitt 2nd Oliver Zwar Jenna Hastings 3rd Neko Mulally Shania Rawson


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Member since Mar 16, 2017
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  • 124 0
 Yay Neko!
  • 36 0
 Let’s go Neko!
  • 35 0
 In 3rd. On his own program and frame. So awesome.
  • 20 0
 Decent number of big names there racing too, I feel like Neko has to be pretty stoked on that result
  • 9 0
 Congrats, Neko!!
  • 60 0
 Imagine designing your own frame and then getting on the podium with it. Neko is a legend.
  • 44 0
 Pays better than a UCI race. Does that make CW the global premier DH racing series? It should.
Way to go Neko!
  • 1 0
 Can't zoom in enough. Was there some massive numbers $$$ on the giant novelty cheques?
  • 17 1
$6320 for 1st
$3540 for 2nd
$2110 for 3rd

Same for men's and women's
  • 4 1
 @dudegetabike: That still doesn't seem like much. I'm not sure I can get round trip flights to/from NZ from Canada for less what I'd win if I placed 3rd...
  • 4 2
 @jsnfschr: ....ikr - Danny Lee just won $6.3 Million at some rando Liv Golf Tourney
  • 4 0
 Hopefully it’s a start of something at least. If they keep paying more, maybe add some more stops, I wouldn’t be completely shocked if we at least saw an uptick in big name riders like Loic racing
  • 2 0
 It's something, but still not much, when you can imagine that the cost of an international trip for 1 person with gear could easily cost 3-5k.
  • 2 0
 @dudegetabike: I'm really wondering what currency it is in: USD or NZD?
  • 3 0
 @AppleJack76: 100% NZD 3949.37 US
  • 11 1
 @threesixtykickflip: putting a positive spin on a murderous regime doesn't come cheap!
  • 1 0
 @mathewnz4936989: Who did Jacinda Murder?
  • 23 0
 If you were looking for a shot of the winning bike...
  • 6 0
 Specialized tyres, no more overpainted other brands
  • 1 0
 Similar to Norco layout except chain stay attached to shock linkage. Probably 6 bar?
  • 8 0
 I want to know what that green light was on the left side of his handlebar.
  • 1 0
 @thustlewhumber: thanks! I felt like I was the only one seeing that. Suspension control?
  • 1 0
 Beefy swingarm on that guy. Lots of cool stuff in that picture.
  • 2 0
 @Rideuse67: yes Léa Smile
already been used in the past WCups&Champ's
  • 1 0
 @thustlewhumber: That's the "Go Bruni!" light, otherwise he just won't ever stop.
  • 21 0
 I love the shared podium idea. Maybe it's not a new thing but it was the first time I've seen the finishers get their medals together.
  • 10 0
 It's not new for Crankworx but it's really a good thing that I wish to see on all races.
  • 11 0
 So stoked for Neko!!
  • 5 0
 great pictures as always. Come on world cup season, it's been ages since we last saw you!
  • 8 0
 Only 9 months to go. Come on!
  • 5 0
 Neko = the people’s champ
  • 4 0
 Yeahhh Neko we like that shiii
  • 2 0
 So so good to be there. World's best rider wins on New Zealands OG and best DH track. Super Bruni is my hero ‍♂️
  • 3 0
 That has to be the best start gate in the circuit!
  • 1 0
 Superb photos, thank you! Also new code levers and boxxer on Vergier's bike, nice.
  • 2 0
 The shots are amazing!
  • 2 1
 Well done Clint.. #bangers
  • 2 1
 Great images! But, Bernards kit; might win a razzie award.
  • 1 0
 Coverage of this was awesome!
  • 2 0
 Bruni - what a Pro.
  • 2 1
  • 1 0
 im just sya bruni is bad
  • 1 1
 Where was Goldstone, I thought he's going to win every race this year?
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