The 2019 racing season has officially kicked off with the double gate drop of the Crankworx Rotorua dual slalom. In the evening light, racers from all disciplines converged on the Wattles Tokorangi Forest venue for some head-to-head racing. With just 20 seconds of track to make it count, dual is a high pressure and high speed event, a single mistake can see you on the floor and out of the running.
As you may have heard, dual slalom is now an official Crankworx World Tour event meaning we will see a Crankworx Dual Slalom World Champ at the end of the year in Whistler. Previously, a highly talented field raced this action packed event with none other that Jill Kintner and Tomas Slavik winning their gates in 2018. It’s safe to say for 2019, however, that we will see and different Pro Women's winner, and Queen of Crankworx all together, since Jill has officially pulled out of competing in CWXs, committing to her EWS goals. Fear not though as there is enough talent going around on the start list ready to fire all cylinders.
The array of bikes chosen by the athletes has a 'race what you brought' attitude as well. Tonight, there were a gang of trail bikes of both wheel sizes, 26in dirtjumpers and slope bikes, and you can't forget the Frankenstein 'trailslope' bikes. It truly is a healthy mix of BMX backgrounds up against downhill racers and even a few freeriders.
After a rapid-fire whittling, four riders remained in each category for the large and small finals. Women's fastest qualifier Tahnee Seagrave had slid out on the flat middle corners in her semi-final so she lined up and beat Kate Weatherly for bronze. In the men's small final, BMX legend Barry Nobles faced off against Kyle Strait. Nobles lost the first round and ripped off his sleeves for the second but even that couldn't help him overcome the veteran of the discipline as Kyle added another medal to his collection.
In the finals, Vaea Verbeeck entered a straight shoot out with Anneke Beerten. She won out both heats and has a second ever Crankworx win to add to her Redwoods downhill triumph from Rotorua last year. Keegan Wright and Bas Van Steenbergen battled it out in the men's competition. Bas won the first leg but Keegan pushed hard in the second and Bas lost the front wheel on the same flat turn as Seagrave, handing a very popular victory to the local.
Local boy Keegan Wright came out the gate swinging to open up the Crankworx festivities.