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Sam Blenkinsop and Louise Ferguson survive 75-mm monsoon to win Rotorua DH

Epic conditions and incredible racing in New Zealand

Photo by: Sam Blenkinsop. Photo: Clint Trahan / Crankworx

Crankworx World Tour chases the best trails and weather around the world but, even when you follow the sun from Austria all the way to New Zealand, you can’t get perfect weather every day. Friday balanced a full year of sun out in one day, delivering 75mm of rain for the RockShox Rotorua DH.

Dominating in the wet weather were the iconic local, Sam Blenkinsop, and up-and-coming Scottish DH racer Louise Ferguson.

Crankworx delivers a mudder for the Rotorua Dh. Photo: Jay French

Blinkinsop wins a mudder at home

When conditions are this wild, the math on how to put together a good race fun changes.

“I thought I would just let it go and have fun,” said men’s winner Sam Blenkinsop, adding “I was pretty scared in a lot of places and thought ‘if I crash, I crash, and it’s kind of wet so you would slide out of so I probably wouldn’t break anything.”

The Norco rider managed to finally unseat Brook MacDonald, who had spent much of the day in the hot seat after a slower qualifying run. Belnki didn’t just win on time. He also won over the crowd as he splashed his way to the finish line.

“I saw all the kids hanging out in that huge puddle and when I came down seeing that, I just knew I needed to make a big splash,” Blenki said if hitting “Hecklers Puddle” at full speed. “It’s cool to see the fans loving it even in these conditions with the rain and not being the warmest so it’s good to see the fans and heaps of them on the trail as well. It’s so cool to see everyone out here loving it.

Louise Ferguson lands the win in New Zealand. Photo: Jay French

Louise Ferguson floats in from Scotland for women’s win

In the elite women’s race, it was Scotland’s Louise Ferguson at the top of the leader board. The Ilabb rider, no stranger to soggy track conditions, took the top step ahead of two young Kiwi riders.

“I think coming from Scotland really helped me with these conditions. The track was sick but it was crazy slippery. We’ve had pretty constant rain all day and yesterday as well so it was changing every run and I’m pretty used to that from back home. The ground’s really soft, there’s loads of ruts and off camber roots so I felt pretty at home! It was really one of those tracks you just have to ride, you can’t really race it.”

Jenna Hastings, who took second ahead of 17-year-old fellow New Zealand rider Caitlin Flavell, echoed Ferguson’s approach.

“I don’t think you could call it racing, I was just trying to make it down,” Hastings said of her silver medal run. “I just tried to take the easy lines and the low lines and just not slide too much. If it goes wrong, it goes wrong, there’s not much you can do about it but I managed to keep it almost rubber side down the whole way.”

2022 Crankworx Rotorua DH podium. Photo: Jay French

King and Queen of Crankworx races shift in soggy soil

With his win in the downhill, Sam Blenkinsop leaps into second overall in the King of Crankworx competition. The Kiwi now sits just six points ahead of Jackson Frew. Bas van Steenbergen, though, still holds a 127-point advantage. With just a couple events remaining, that makes the Canadian’s lead look promising.

The women’s race is far from over, though. Caroline Buchanan is now tied with Jordy Scott. Both riders have 826 points going into Saturday’s events. Canada’s Vaea Verbeeck still sits third, with 772 points. But her title defense is looking unlikely, though she has mounted an impressive effort to nurse a knee injury from early summer all the way to Rotorua.

Racing continues Saturday with the Speed and Style event.

Replay: Crankworx Rotorua Downhill

Results – Rockshox Rotorua Downhill – Elite Female
  1. Louise Ferguson (GBR) – 4:23.817
  2. Jenna Hastings (NZL) – 4:45.452
  3. Caitlin Flavell (NZL) – 4:52.402
Results – Rockshox Rotorua Downhill – Elite Male
  1. Sam Blenkinsop (NZL) – 3:14.796
  2. Brook Macdonald (NZL) – 3:22.685
  3. Matt Walker (NZL) – 3:24.246