The theme for the inaugural Crankworx Innsbruck was ‘firsts’. First time winners, first place finishers, firsts for new tricks and a first event for Innsbruck. The new venue, perched high on the hills above Innsbruck gave way to stunning views over the valley. The weather was hot, in the thirties hot, with little respite from the heat. The space for tracks was more limited than at the other venues, so the track builders employed creativity to make use of the space. Over-unders, and criss-crossing lines extended the tracks to the required lengths and showed the crowd something new. The event ran with expected efficiency, even though the event site was more spread out than the other rounds. Despite this, the turnout of the local crowds was solid for the new event.
New Zealand had a solid showing at the Austrian event. Let’s start at day one, the Whip Off. A jump with a view, created by fellow Kiwi Tom Hey. Hands down the best-looking whip jump ever seen. Conor Macfarlane got back behind the handlebars after a string of injuries, but he feared that he just hadn’t had the chance to get his big-bike whips dialled because he’d spent the majority of the last year off the bike due to injury. Sam Blenkinsop stayed in the competition right up until the end with his signature style being a favourite with the judges.
Day two was the Mons Royale Dual Speed and Style, and we (as New Zealand) only had one hope of taking something out of this event and that was the standing King of Crankworx Matt Walker. Unfortunately, Matt Walker was forced out in the round of 32, but he knew that the level of this event was ever increasing, and that just speed alone would no longer be enough. He didn’t want to be that guy that couldn’t trick anything so he bravely started throwing 3’s with a decent hit rate. Check this one out, it’s properly dumped. However, with the finals featuring two slopestyle riders, there’s a few more tricks to be learned yet.
The pump track was another Kiwi-crafted affair, being lovingly created by Chris and Adam from Empire of Dirt. The track included a crossover, and an uphill finish. After Shania Rawson’s close battle with Jill Kintner at Crankworx Rotorua, it was a shame that she wasn’t able to get back up for another battle here, with a possibly fractured wrist holding Shania back. Matt Walker was joined by Keegan Wright, Rupert Chapman, and even an appearance from Bryn Dickerson on the pump track. Matt and Keegan both made the second round, however Keegan was beaten by Barry Nobles, and Matt by Kyle Strait, putting the Kiwis out a bit earlier in the program than they would have liked.
Coming into the last few days of the event, weather began to pose a threat. Slopestyle was pulled forwards to the Saturday, which conflicted with when the Downhill was being held. This kept media on their toes, and confused some of the local punters.
Over in Mutters, Nicholai Rogatkin put an end to Brett Rheeders hopes of back to back slopestyle victories by debuting a new trick, a tailwhip-cashroll, another first for the eager crowd, whilst on the slopes of Götzens New Zealand dominated in the younger Categories.
The U19 podium was littered with Kiwis. Current New Zealand U19 Champ Josh Oxenham took the top spot, with Sam Robbie in second place just under 5 seconds behind him. Josh’s time was so good it would have seen him take a top 20 finish in the Elites as well. Shania Rawson took silver in her race, only .41 behind the winner which would equate to a 6th place Elite Women’s finish. All that with a cast on her wrist as well!
Billy Meaclem took a 5th spot, with Nils Heiniger and Charlie Makea also getting into the top 10. Sam Blenkinsop was the fastest Kiwi on the day taking 13th in Elite, with Rupert Chapman and Keegan Wright narrowly missing out on a top 20 finish.
All in all the event was a good one, and a real positive kick off for the newest Crankworx World Tour stop. We missed seeing the Masters brothers, and Brook Macdonald racing the downhill, but it’s a pretty hectic schedule for everyone racing something like 6 weekends in a row. All of the Kiwi crew are now in Andorra for the World Cup, with this being a great warm up for the big show. Bring on some more success for New Zealand.
Words & Images – Jay French – Freeride NZ