BURBIDGE-SMITH CLAIMS DOUBLE GOLD IN CAIRNS, AND GILCHRIST TAKES HOME FIRST CRANKWORX WIN IN DUAL SLALOM HEATER
CAIRNS, AUSTRALIA, May 19, 2023 – For the third day in a row the vibes were off the charts amongst an especially raucous and rowdy crowd in Cairns. And for good reason, as the Aussies dominated on home soil with Ryan Gilchrist and Harriet Burbidge-Smith leading the charge down the hyper-quick and feature-rich course. The hard-packed “moondust” proved to be just the right consistency for riders to blitz through the technical combination of hits, twists and turns.
Gilchrist, an engineering student, designed the perfect path to victory as he stayed calm, collected and laser-focused on the task ahead. “My strategy today was to go as fast as possible from top to bottom,” said Gilchrist. “I take it one race at a time and try not to get too spooked out by the magnitude of the situation as this is as good as it gets.”
Despite racing against one of the best in the sport, the Aussie phenom allowed himself to feel the nerves but not be overcome by the moment. “I was a little bit nervous up there because Bas van Steenbergen is such a well established athlete and he’s been at the top for so long and is the King of Crankworx for a reason,” said Gilchrist. “It is really special racing against him, and it was definitely nice to be at the gate with him, having proper, genuine conversation before we dropped in.”
The hard fought victory was regarded by the broadcast team as a potential passing of the torch from Aussie legend, Yeti teammate and the defending Crankworx Cairns Dual Slalom Champion, “Sik” Mick Hannah. The newly crowned champ was quick to credit Hannah for inspiration in his recent success, “Mick is a teammate who turned into fine mentor and somebody I’ve looked up to my entire riding life,” said the 20-year-old. “To be able to call him a teammate and have him in my corner giving me advice and insight has been absolutely amazing”.
For the second day (and event) in a row as Harriet “Haz” Burbidge-Smith reached the top step in Cairns. These consecutive wins give Haz a significant boost in the overall standings, placing her just 20 points back of second place and less than 100 points off of the top spot held by defending champ Caroline Buchanan.
Barely rested and recovered from her Speed & Style victory yesterday, Haz was her cool, humble self after claiming her second gold medal in as many days. “Feeling pretty good and stoked to perform how I wanted to,” said the Red Bull athlete. “It was one lap at a time this week and it has worked out well.”
Despite banking another huge win and collecting valuable Crankworx overall points, Haz is doing her best to live in the moment and take stock of the little things. “No, I’m not thinking about the overall, I’m just focusing on what I love this year—which is freeride and doing the events I enjoy,” said Burbidge-Smith. “Obviously, it’s sick that I’m doing well in the overall, and I’m still going to be at all the stops. But I’m just having a blast, so we’ll see what happens.”
Similar to her fellow Aussie champion, Gilchrist, Haz kept the game plan simple and to the point heading into the final.
“My strategy going out there today was don’t over think it but remember those little bits of the course that I needed to and when I made mistakes I remembered what I did and fixed it the next run,” said Burbidge-Smith. “I almost slowed it down in that top section and tried to smooth out everything. I tried to get the pedals where I wanted to get the manuals on the techy stuff and on the flags I was trying to be fast but safe, because I saw so many people miss.”
The result may have been what Haz wanted, but she admits it didn’t come about in the way she was hoping. Her competitor and good pal, Martha Gill washed out in the lower half of the course. “Obviously it still sucks for it to go down like that,” said Burbidge-Smith.” It doesn’t feel great when a mate goes down, but I’m stoked she’s okay.”
While the finals certainly didn’t pan out the way Martha Gill drew them up, she was able to offer up her trademark positivity as she saw the ‘silver’ lining in the unfortunate crash and result. “I’m stoked for second this is actually my first podium I’ve got at Crankworx outside of Rotorua,” said Gill. “That was a goal of mine for this year, so I’m stoked to tick that off.”
The blazing fast Brit’s excitement was palpable in reaching her first Aussie podium, but offered some insight into what went wrong just a few short turns from the finish line.
“It was tough racing against Caroline, so I was super pumped to get through into the gold medal final,” said Gill. “But ya I was stoked with that and then probably just pushed a bit too hard against Haz. She was in front and I was trying to catch up and I think I just went a bit too inside on the berm and washed out and wrecked myself.”
Keen to build off the momentum of his career best 2nd place in Speed & Style yesterday, Bas van Steenbergen looked smooth and fast throughout the day in his signature event. However, the top step eluded the reigning King of Crankworx as an unfortunate error proved costly through the final few gates.
“It’s bittersweet, I definitely wanted that win really bad,” said van Steenbergen. “I was trying to just kind of play it safe, but when you’re pushing that hard you can make one little mistake and it can cost you a lot.
The podium was rounded out by 2023 King/Queen of Crankworx contenders, Tuhoto-Ariki Pene and Caroline Buchanan.
Pene closed out his day with a tightly contested showdown with one of the consistently fastest riders on the day, Aussie standout Jackson Frew. But, after Frew made contact with the final gate in Run 1, costing him valuable time, the race was Pene’s to lose. While Frew made a valiant effort to close the gap, the untimely error proved to be too much as Pene edged out Frew by 0.1 of a second to claim the Bronze medal.
After putting down solid runs throughout the day, the reigning Queen of Crankworx Champion (and current leader) was relegated to the bronze medal match after losing a razor close battle to Martha Gill by 0.3 of a second. However, Buchanan proved why she is the woman to beat this year as she dug deep and eeked out the win over Kiwi crowd-favourite, Jenna Hastings, by virtually the same margin that saw her defeated by Gill.
Results: Dual Slalom Cairns
- Ryan Gilchrist (AUS) // Harriet Burbidge-Smith (AUS)
- Bas van Steenbergen (CAN) // Martha Gill (GBR)
- Tuhoto-Ariki Pene (NZL) // Caroline Buchanan (AUS)
Full results: crankworx.com/results/
Event replay: Red Bull Bike
Tomorrow, live broadcast action rolls on with the Elite finals of the Crankworx Cairns Pump Track and Slopestyle.
Stay up to date with all things Crankworx: crankworx.com
Photos for media use: Flickr
About the Crankworx World Tour
Crankworx is the ultimate experience in mountain biking. Born in Whistler, B.C. in 2004, Crankworx has evolved into a multi-stop international festival series. The Crankworx World Tour brings together the best mountain bike athletes to compete in elite-level competitions in a variety of disciplines. Crankworx World Tour festivals also host races for amateurs, CWNEXT categories for next gen athletes, Kidsworx contests for young riders, participatory events and celebrations of mountain bike culture, all while showcasing amazing destinations. For additional information, visit crankworx.com.