Cycling News

Loic Bruni and Jess Blewitt win Crankworx DH season opener

Bas van Steenbergen

Crankworx Rotorua kicked off the 2023 downhill season with a star-studded cast of racers. The Elite men’s field was a whose-who of international talent, including race winner and reigning world champion Loic Bruni. On the women’s side, a trio of rising New Zealand talent backed their successes around the world with a solid sweep of their home-track downhill podium.

Bas van Steenbergen on a dryer day during seeding in Rotorua. Photo: Clint Trahan

Canadians in Rotorua

Four Canadians took on the Rotorua DH across elite men’s and women’s categories. Georgia Astle (Devinci Global Racing) led, finishing eighth in the elite women’s race. Bailey Goldstone (Santa Cruz Bicycles) followed in 10th.

Jake Jewett (Pivot Factory Racing) led the Canadian men, sliding to 11th. Reigning King of Crankworx, Bas van Steenbergen (Hyper) started his title defense with a 19th-place finish.

Neko Mulally races a muddy Rotorua DH practice session
Neko Mulally during a wildly muddy practice session in Rotorua. Photo: Clint Trahan

Mud, sun and the return of Crankworx Downhill

Taniwha Downhill’s chutes of roots and steep ruts are challenging to master in good weather. Add two days of rain, constantly changing lines, and it was a wild weekend of riding in Rotorua. Two days of rain during practice kept racers on their toes and made ruts deep and committing. Sun, and Kiwi DH fans, came out for finals.

Winning the men’s race, by a narrow 0.344 seconds, is world champion Loic Bruni (Specialized Gravity Racing).

“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,” Bruni said after his win. “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”

Despite struggling, Bruni does walk away with the win ahead of Sweden’s Oliver Zwar (Canyon Cllctv) and the U.S.A.’s Neko Mulally (Frameworks Racing).

“It was really cool to make a solid 1 and 1 from yesterday’s seeding and today’s podium,” Bruni said, adding “I’m feeling like I am starting the season in the best way, so I am feeling stoked.”

Crankworx rotorua podium celebrations
Blewitt and Bruni…

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