Photos by Anthony Smith
Words by Brice Minnigh
The Crankworx Rotorua Enduro race delivered all the guts and glory that we’ve come to expect from the increasingly popular format, with technical trails in complicated conditions, horrendous crashes and the triumph of some of the world’s most talented mountain bikers. Frenchman Jerome Clementz proved he is truly back from last year’s shoulder injury with a commanding victory over the men’s field, while his compatriot Anne-Caroline Chausson handily took the win in the women’s race. Here are some of the highlights:
As racers in the Crankworx Rotorua Enduro rolled out of the start gate in the geothermal valley near the town’s famous Pohutu Geyser, evidence of the growing appeal of the enduro racing format abounded. Big-name World Cup DH racers such as Sam Blenkinsop, Brook McDonald and Wyn Masters showed up to the start gate raring to race. But the biggest name of all was Sam Hill, who calmly explained, “It seems like a really cool event, so I wanted to give it a try.” Several hours and seven grueling stages later, Hill finished the enduro race with style and an uncharacteristically big smile. He also finished 9th overall, ahead of several well-established enduro racers. And true to form, he ran flat pedals for the entire race.
Competition in the men’s field of the enduro was fierce, with all of the top riders looking strong. But few were more on point than Jerome Clementz, who proved that he is back from last year’s shoulder injury by winning the contest outright.
Today’s enduro course was a true test of bike-handling skills, with greasy roots, rutted sections and tight corners demanding consummate mastery of racers’ bikes. Frenchman Nico Lau’s skills were frequently on display, with moves like this nose-wheelie into this corner to set himself up for a speedy exit.
By Stage Five of today’s race, it was clear that New Zealand golden boy, Wyn Masters, was quickly moving up the ranks. Local spectators alongside the course showed particular exuberance for him as he blazed past, and in the end, he didn’t disappoint the hometown crowd, finishing third overall.
As usual, Anne-Caroline Chausson was the woman to beat in the women’s race, and her focus was unwavering through stage after stage. Here, toward the bottom of Stage Four, she rode smooth and fast through a deeply rutted turn.
Former DH luminary Fabien Barel was looking hungry and riding like a beast, and his determined efforts landed him squarely in second place, setting himself up for what could be a successful season in this year’s Enduro World Series.
While his Yeti Cycles teammate Jared Graves sat out the race due to injury, it was up to Richie Rude to bear the torch for the Yeti Tribe. And he charged like an NFL linebacker looking for Super Bowl stardom for the entire race, forging an 11th-place finish.