World’s best mountain bikers return to Rotorua for Crankworx

When the world's best mountain biking festival commits to a 10-year run in a small, New Zealand city, you've got to wonder what it is that makes that place so special. 

The first international mountain bike competition of the season is set to bring best in speed, style, and endurance together in New Zealand.

 For the fifth time Crankworx will launch the season for 2019 as riders from all over the world descend on Rotorua from March 19-24.

Known as the friendliest stop on tour the Rotorua locals will be ready to welcome their manuhiri (vistors) to their famous town known for Māori culture and geothermal activity. 

The festival brings together the best in the world and with the return of the Enduro World Series, the action is set to be next-level in 2019.

Crankworx Rotorua – The Story 

The beginning of the story starts millions of years ago with violent geological forces that dragged the islands of New Zealand to the Pacific Ocean and left it straddling two tectonic plates. Pan forward to today and you’ll see a city settled atop a thin patch of ruptured crust, peppered with bubbling mud pools, steaming vents, and gushing geysers.

From the late 1800s, these natural wonders transformed Rotorua into the country's original tourist resort. Visitors flocked from far and wide to enjoy its mesmerising blend of Māori culture, eye-popping geothermal sights, and the therapeutic benefits of its mineral-rich hot springs and mud baths.

Rotorua's off-road cycling revolution kicked off in the early 1990s in a forest bordering the city's southeastern fringe. Known as The Redwoods, the vast forest is now the undisputed king of New Zealand mountain bike parks and widely hailed as one of the best in the world.

The park boasts more than 150 kilometres of track threading through the forested hills known as Whakarewarewa, its 70-odd trails ranging from super-easy to outrageous. But this isn't the only place to ride in Rotorua. Another major hub is the Skyline Gravity Bike Park on the other side of town, cut into the slopes of Mt Ngongotaha. And this is where the legendary, annual Crankworx festival has taken place since 2015.

The week-long festival is packed with fast and furious events, from technical downhill races rife with airborne antics and off-camber catastrophes through to the Slopestyle competition in which eight daredevils push the limits of bicycle aerobatics on an obstacle course of epic stature and style.

Rotorua's X-factor is a highly evolved mountain biking culture, propelled by a community that backs it to the hilt. And riders from out of town can't get enough of it.

Ones to watch 

Here’s a list of who to watch for as another season of the ultimate experience in mountain biking gets rolling.

Casey Brown (CAN)
She’s worn the crown before (in 2014) and last year was second in line to the throne - could this be the year that Casey Brown reclaims the Queen of Crankworx title? 

Sure to be spotted racing alongside Brown, watch for Vaea Verbeeck (CAN) and Kialani Hines (USA) who were next in line for the overall title in 2018.

Matt Walker (NZL) will also be one to watch - he’s the only pro male athlete who’s registered for seven of the eight events taking place at Crankworx Rotorua.

Tracey Hannah (AUS)
She’s earned the distinction of Crankworx Downhill Champion four years running. In fact, while Tracey Hannah missed the downhill events in Rotorua in 2018 with a concussion, she still managed to take the overall win thanks to first place finishes in Innsbruck and Whistler.

Tahnée Seagrave (GBR) will also be on deck, back to defend her win in the Crankworx Rotorua Downhill.

Some familiar names are returning to the famed Rotorua Slopestyle course, including Brett Rheeder (CAN), current World Champion and winner of last year’s season-opener event, and Nicholi Rogatkin (USA), who ended the 2018 season on a high note winning Red Bull Joyride and claiming the Triple Crown of Slopestyle.

Skyline Rotorua

Skyline Rotorua is home to New Zealand's first year-round gondola-assisted bike lift, accessing world-class downhill mountain biking.

The Skyline Rotorua MTB Gravity Park – New Zealand’s first year-round mountain biking facility - gives riders easy access to an 8.5-kilometre trail network featuring trails with varying terrain for all ability levels, with dedicated bike gondola cabins taking the hard work out of getting back to the top of the run.