ROTORUA, NEW ZEALAND March 19, 2023 — The 2023 Crankworx World Tour has officially kicked off in Rotorua’s Whakarewarewa Forest for the RockShox Taniwha Downhill, putting the world’s best downhillers to the test. The track is known for it’s rooty ruts and chutes which is challenging on a dry day, but absolutely menacing in the wet. After a downpour of rain two days before finals, the track dried up for some tacky dirt conditions, but featured a few “choose your own adventure” rut sections which made for an action-packed day of racing.

Number one seed in the elite male category, and five-time world champion Loic Bruni, was able to keep his composure and dominate through the challenging conditions with the fastest time of 3:00.348.  

“It was really good,” The Red Bull rider said of his winning run. “The first day of practice was pretty hectic and super difficult because of the rain. Today 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 a pretty good on the top sections, but I couldn’t really adapt to the track. I was a little bit off pace and off rhythm, most of the lap but still trying to push. I did quite a few small mistakes but I was feeling fast by the time I reached the bottom, but missed some lines trying to fight the feeling of being so tired and felt like I had barely made it, so it was super tight in the end. It was really cool to make a solid 1 and 1 from yesterday’s seeding and today’s podium. Feeling like I am starting the season in the best way, so I am feeling stoked.”

Fellow Red Bull rider Jess Blewitt won her first World Tour gold medal in the Elite Women’s category. In 2020 she won the junior category for Crankworx Rotorua Downhill, so she was admittedly chuffed to take another Crankworx Rotorua Downhill W.

“My run went to plan,” Blewitt recounts her winning efforts. “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, so part of me thought I could have gone harder at the bottom but at the same time I think it was a smart race run.”

Rotorua local, and Junior World Champ, Jenna Hastings snagged the silver and kept her home crowd stoked. She had a near OTB after sending it off the big jump, but was able to keep herself cool, calm and collected to put down the second fastest time of 3:42.792 for the Elite Women’s field.

“I had done the big jump twice in practice and it was all good, but then for some reason I was coming in fast, I wasn’t in the right gear, pedalled too late and went so nosey – it was ridiculous,” Hastings says of her recovery off the big jump. “I don’t know how I held onto it, but I did and then my helmet was all in my vision, I had to re-adjust, and then I was so rattled and knew I had to just get to the bottom. I ended up second so I can’t complain really!”

Swedish downhiller, Oliver Zwar, earned his first Crankworx podium with the second fastest time in the elite male category of 3:00.692, and Neko Mulally with a little over half a second difference takes the bronze. Local rider Shania Rawson took home the bronze with a time of 3:45.540, making it a Kiwi podium sweep for the Elite Women’s category.

Results – RockShox Taniwha Downhill

  1. Loic Bruni (FRA) 3:00.348 // Jess Blewitt (NZL) 3:35.792
  2. Oliver Zwar (SWE) 3:00.692 // Jenna Hastings (NZL) 3:42.234
  3. Neko Mulally (USA) 3:01.287 // Shania Rawson (NZL) 3:45.540

Full results: crankworx.com/results/

The tone has been set for Crankworx Rotorua 2023, with riders and spectators fizzing from the action of Rockshox Taniwha Downhill. With five days of all round good times and glory, we are in for a bloody good festival ahead. Follow the action from home on Red Bull TV. Check out @Crankworx and @CrankworxRotorua socials for updates on Crankworx Rotorua as they come, and 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.