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Kiwi Domination At RockShox Taniwha Downhill As Lachie Stevens-McNab & Eliana Hulsebosch Grab Gold At Crankworx Rotorua

After facing wet conditions during the track walk and training sessions on Friday, the weather was in favour of athletes and trail builders alike. Exposed to plenty of sunshine throughout the weekend, the Taniwha trail in Rotorua’s Whakarewarewa forest was in pristine condition for the first Crankworx event of the year, marking both the kickoff of the Crankworx World Tour and the exhilarating 10-year anniversary of Crankworx Rotorua. Some of the world’s top athletes gathered to compete on the iconic volcanic soil of Aotearoa.

Local athletes proved to be unbeatable, with Rotorua’s own Lachie Stevens-McNab and Eliana Hulsebosch from nearby Tauranga taking first place. “You know there’s a bit more pressure with a local race, everyone’s ‘you’re the local boy, you know you gotta win’, but yeah, it feels unreal to win.” Lachie explains after his spectacular victory run.

An all-kiwi podium was celebrated in the women’s category as Jess Blewitt and Shania Rawson were following Eliana Hulsebosch onto the steps at the award ceremony. Despite having a challenging run, Eliana managed to maintain her lead with quite some room between her and the first runner-up. “It was really good in the first straight, and then I got to the first bog section and I hit a tree and got a little bit lose, but I quickly told myself to breathe, recompose myself and keep the tires moving which is always ideal in the muddy stuff. And then, it got sketchy a couple more times, one on the road crossing.” she explains with a big smile on her face.

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Bernard Kerr, who was last to start after dominating in yesterday’s seeding, unfortunately crashed while going for the big new triple feature on the course. This left the men’s podium to be rounded out by two Kiwis and Canadian Jakob Jewett. Lachie grabbing the first spot witnessed by his family and friends, was in good company with South Island’s Samuel Blenkinsop coming in third. Young Canadian rider Jakob Jewett who was tight on Lachie’s heels, sums up his strategy for the race: “I just wanted to have a clean run and see where my speed is at. Obviously, the New Zealand and Australia boys have had a lot of time to bike, so coming from the Canada winter I just wanted to be in the mix, and yeah, super happy I’m on the podium.”

Local athletes were particularly stoked about this year’s Taniwha Downhill track, attributed to Rotorua’s forgiving and fast-absorbing volcanic soil. “The trail was so sick, and honestly, the rain two days ago made it so much more interesting. It was like a highway when it was dry. Now that it’s been wet and, you know, ruts were everywhere, made the track more technical which is cool. But yeah, I love racing here.” Shania Rawson, also calling Rotorua home, added, “The dirt is perfect this weekend. I mean, it was a bit muddy, but I like it like that, it kind of evens out the field a bit more, and to race against these girls was so good.”

Results – RockShox Taniwha DH – Male Category (Elite/U19)

  1. Lachie Stevens-McNab (NZL) 2:45:612
  2. Jakob Jewett (CAN) 2:47:934
  3. Samuel Blenkinsop (NZL) 2:53:472

Results – RockShox Taniwha DH – Female Category (Elite/U19)

  1. Eliana Hulsebosch (NZL) 3:24:130
  2. Jess Blewitt (NZL) 3:30:021
  3. Shania Rawson (NZL) 3:34:907

Full results:

As this first weekend of the 10th edition of Crankworx Rotorua wraps up, the action continues with the North Island School Championships that started today with the Cross Country, Downhill Monday 18th and Enduro Tuesday 19th March. With a three-day lineup, it draws hundreds of students from across the island to compete in Cross Country, Downhill, and Enduro. Feel free to watch and capture the action from the spectator areas at the Whakarewarewa forest. The full schedule including details can be found here.

Athletes are already looking forward to the events coming up next week at Skyline Rotorua. “Honestly, I just want to stay consistent stay consistent over everything, but I think Pump Track is pretty fun. The atmosphere and everything is pretty sick,” Shania Rawson noted.

The RockShox Taniwha Downhill was just the beginning to another eight days of action-packed schedule, moving to Skyline Rotorua for the Air DH, Whip-Off, Speed & Style, Specialized Dual Slalom, and the Crankworx Rotorua Pump Track Challenge. The program will conclude with the Maxxis Slopestyle in Memory of McGazza on March 24, the first ever Diamond Level Slopestyle to host both men’s and women’s categories.

Everyone who doesn’t want to miss this monumental instant creating history in the world of Freeride Mountain Biking can grab tickets to Crankworx Rotorua, tune in on Red Bull TV and check out @Crankworx and @CrankworxRotorua for updates on Instagram.

© Scoop Media

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