Done and dusted, quite literally. The last event from an emotional Crankworx Rotorua was the Downhill presented by IXS. The track here in New Zealand hosted the 2006 World Championships and is absolutely no joke. Fast and rough, it features sizeable jumps and rowdy steeps all the way down to separate the ams from the pros. The sunny and dry conditions helped to create the dusty, loose track that made for a slippery afternoon at the races.
The views were almost as spectacular as the racing today as some of the world's best dropped in and raced their way down through the Jurassic ferns.
This is a real deal downhill track. It hosted world's in 2006 and it WILL reach out and grab you if you let down your guard. It took out more than one seasoned veteran this week including Mick Hannah and the Bulldog.
Anneke Beerten hasn't raced downhill in a long time. The flying Dutchwoman didn't bring her downhill bike, but it's a mountain bike race so you just "run what you brung." Nothing like an enduro bike on one of the harder downhill tracks of the year. Credit where credit is due, she sent almost everything on track clipped in and ready for an XC spin.
Casey Brown is the toughest woman on the downhill circuit; bar none. She cased the pond jump in practice and took her downhill bike out of commission with no time to get it back in shape for the race. She decided to sack up and race the downhill on her little bike to a 3rd place finish.
Tracey Hannah rode strong this week and ended up taking home $2500 for her efforts.
Tracey and Casey
Jill Kintner had some demons to slay here in New Zealand. The American won the pump track earlier this week and now has redemption with a win in the downhill. Last year, Kintner broke her leg in the steep larches section and missed the beginning of the season. This year, she goes home with some hardware of another variety and is leading the points race for the Queen of Crankworx title heading into Les Gets later this summer.
Marcelo Guttierez is using this race as a prep event for world cup season. A 6th place isn't a bad way to get your season underway.
Someone forget to let R-Dog know that this wasn't a slope style event. Forget the racer tuck, Howard yanks and heads into orbit.
Andrew Neethling around the first corner and into the meat of the track.
Elliot Jackson looking Fly. He came second at the DH event here last year. This year he took home seventh place, but had more style than the rest of the pro category combined. Staying low over the grassy knoll is a Jackson speciality.
Fabien Barel was here to test the new Canyon DH prototype, but he also took to the track today when it counted and the clock was running. The two time world champion sat down mid run and decided to coast once he was through the rough stuff and wound up in 48th place.
Rotorua local Connor Hamilton keeps his feet dry and goes wheels up across the pond. Hopefully we get to see him land in Europe sometime this summer to get some world cup experience.
Mick Hannah had a rough week here in Rotorua. A few massive crashes on the downhill bike, including one in his race run, ended his chance for a podium finish here in New Zealand. His first crash of the week in practice was heinous after he clipped part of the triple in to the finish area and went head first all the way to the bottom of the drop in. Luckily, the Australian tough guy walked away unscathed. His luck must be tuning around after being injured on and off the past few years from simple little accidents
Matt Walker came off of the Enduro win with his confidence peaking and raced his way into 5th place. Along with a nice big novelty pay check, Walker scored some important king of Crankworx points securing him first place heading to Les Gets.
"It's great being on the new team. They didn't expect much coming into here, but I think they're pretty happy with how this week went!" Matt Walker joked after the downhill. 5th in the downhill and 1st in the enduro is a great start to the Kiwi's season.
Brendan Fairclough broke his chain right out of the gate today. "I'm gutted, it was such a good week and the track is sick." Brendog pumped and jumped his way down the mountain with a chain wrapped around his cassette and multiple broken spokes.
Brendog was all smiles despite his bad luck.
Coming into the day, local Kiwi Sam Blenkinsop was among the favourites for the win. Getting loose is what Blenki does, and he was hanging it out all over the place. With his Grandmother and Mom in attendance, he was out to show what he's got. Here he drops into the top of the track, with lake Rotorua in the distance.
Blenki does what he does best, charging the upper off camber and kicking up a cloud of roost behind him.
He blasted through "The Larches" section like the veteran that he is. No tricky lines, just a death grip and a light touch on the pedals.
When Wyn Masters can't race he becomes a super fan. He got a little zesty with the scooter and had to get some assistance to make his way UP the downhill track on the old Scoopy.
All round nice guy Brook MacDonald spent the week signing autographs and handing out medals at kidworx when he should have been downhill training. The Bulldog dropped in with fire in his eyes and slid his way into third place on his brand new GT after crashing his brains out in practice.
Bulldog took a smasher crash in practice but came out alright.
It isn't the first time Brook has taken a digger and he came back strong out of the gate.
George Brannigan decided it would be a great idea to hit the boner log on the slope track last night. Unfortunately, he went to flat and bent his bars and damaged some other things. He had a new bike up and running in time to get one practice run today at the very end of the session. Second place isn't anything to sneeze at, especially on minimal practice. Expect big things from George this season.
What else can you say about Loic Bruni? The reigning downhill world champion and all round nice guy is on a brand new bike and didn't miss a beat, picking up right where he left off last season taking home gold.
Loic Bruni and his mechanic Jack. Thumbs up all around.
Pro Downhill Podium.
Your current King and Queen of Crankworx points leaders. Jill Kintner (USA) and Matt Walker (NZL).