Constantly changing weather continues to add a bit of spice to Crankworx Rotorua racing. Rain made for a chaotic day of dual slalom match-ups just hours after a sunny and speedy morning of pump track racing.
Brook MacDonald earns his first pro win since his big crash in 2019, and his first Crankworx dual slalom win. On the women’s side, Kialani Hines takes her first dual slalom win of Crankworx in a close match-up against Rotorua’s relevation, 17-year-old Jenna Hastings.
“It feels really good,” said an elated Brook Macdonald. “It’s been such a long time since I’ve won a race. I honestly, I’m over the moon. Just to be able to actually win a race again and know I’m still capable of it. It’s definitely a good feeling.”
Bulldog back on top
Constantly shifting conditions made for loose racing, with intermittent downpours making the flat dual slalom corners treacherously slick. The Crankworx racers were reveling in the wild conditions.
“This was the most fun I’ve had on my bike in a long day,” said former King of Crankworx Sam Blenkinsop after being eliminated in his match-up against Tuhoto-Ariki Pene.
“100 per cent,” agreed Brook “Bulldog” Macdonald. “It was so sick. We were dealt with rain, then in dried up, then the rain came again. It was a fair race between all and just to be able to lay two runs on the line, it’s pretty sick. I love Dual Slalom. It’s such a sick sport. I definitely think we need more of it in the mountain biking scene.”
In the men’s race, the final came down to a one final run between the Bulldog and rising Kiwi talent Tuhoto-Ariki Pene. After the first run on a greasy Rotorua track, Pene held a slight advantage over the veteran racer. Despite needing to make up ground, MacDonald went into the second run with his eyes on the win.
“You never give up until the finish line, so I just hung in there,” said MacDonald. “I messed up the doubles at the top and I lost a lot of time there. I knew that a lot of people were making mistakes on that white line, so I just knew that if I could get the line into the second corner and then through everything.”
With the slick conditions wreaking havoc, getting to the line was proving to be the biggest challenge. Pene led early, only to lose traction on a tricky right hander. MacDonald rolled through to the win but was quick to credit Pene for a big day of racing.
“It would have been close,” Macdonald said at the line. “I don’t think I would have made the 1.5 on him if he didn’t have that mechanical. It was a sick race. He definitely was the fastest guy of the day, but yeah, that’s racing.”
For Pene, second was bittersweet. The young New Zealander had gone down hard earlier during pump track racing and wasn’t sure he’d even be able to race dual slalom. Instead, he found himself in the final.
“I didn’t think I’d even race at the start of qualifying because I had a big crash, but I just stayed on and kept going. I was just taking it race by race, literally. Lap by lap. To be in the final, and that close to the bloody top. It is what it is. Shit happens.”
Hines takes first “official” dual slalom win
For Kialani Hines, a hard-faught win against Jenna Hastings offered a bit of redemption. Hines had narrowly lost out in the pump track finals to Olympian Caroline Buchanan earlier in the day. Hours later, the U.S. rider was able to stay steady through the mud to take her win.
“It feels so good,” said a chilled Hines, soaked with mud, rain and champagne. “I wanted to prove myself here. Although yesterday I had a couple good tumbles, so todays just a rough one. All the girls are so fast, so to be able to pull it out is what I wanted. I’m very to win a Dual Slalom officially.”
Hines adds “officially” because it isn’t her first Crankworx dual slalom win. During Crankworx B.C. another rain delay at Silverstar granted Hines her first dual slalom win, but based off qualifying run times not head-to-head racing. Rotorua delivered more rain, but also an opportunity to race for the win.
“It was really unpredictable, up until about five minutes before the rain comes because you can see it coming,” Hines said of the conditions. “It kind of made it fun. I was really happy that it ended up raining because it loosened me up and made me have fun with and I didn’t think about it too much. And I think all of us kind of felt that way. So although it was really wet, it was still a super fun Slalom race.”
Martha Gill finished third in the women’s dual slalom, edging out Canadian Casey Brown for the final podium position.