Crankworx World Tour touches down in Cairns – here are the top 5 must watch events happening this weekend

Erik Fedko performs during Slopestyle event Crankworx in Rotorua
Erik Fedko performs during Slopestyle event at Crankworx round one in Rotorua (Image credit: Red Bull)

After the non-stop action of the opening round of the Crankworx World Tour in Rotorua, New Zealand which included some of the worlds best mountain bike riders gathering from around the globe to race, perform their best tricks and check out the new changes brought in for the 2023 Crankworx World Tour

The round one action in the Rotorua Whakarewarewa Forest did not disappoint with fans treated to a spectacular show of multi-discipline riding events which also marked the return of the voice of mountain biking – Rob Warner. The Crankworx World Tour now touches down in another tropical rainforest in Cairns, Australia, and the paradise edition of the Crankworx World Tour looks set to be another epic weekend. With the entire weekend broadcast on Red Bull TV, we looked at the five must-see events happening over the weekend at Crankworx World Tour, Cairns and some of the stand-out riders competing.

Rob Warner smiling at the camera at Crankworx 2023

Rob Warner is back for the Cairns edition of Crankworx World Tour (Image credit: Red Bull)

1. The RockShox downhill

Loic Bruni and Jess Blewitt on the podium at Crankworx world tour round one

Loic Bruni and Jess Blewitt bagged the prizes in round one of the downhill  (Image credit: Red Bull)

Downhill racing needs no introduction and in round one it was current men's World Champion Loic Bruni and New Zealand National Champion Jess Blewitt that took the wins. Last year's event in Cairns saw downhill MTB return to one of the most iconic tracks on the circuit, and 2023 promises to take the event to a whole new level. With Rob Warner and Eliot Jackson on the mic and elevated TV coverage, it could be the best yet. 

Tuhoto-Ariki Pene and Sam Blenkinsop were on fire in Rotorua but mistakes in the finals cost them a shot at the podium, and they are back in Cairns looking to redeem themselves. Sam Hill who was injured during training in 2022 is also back hoping for a win on home soil and local legend, Mick Hannah, will be seeking that elusive international win on his local track. On the women’s side, Scottish rider Louise Ferguson will be bringing all her experience from the Northern Hemisphere's iconic track at Fort William, and the 2022 Junior World Champion Jenna Hastings will also be charging for that top step of the podium. 

2. Pump Track

Niels Bensink racing in rainbow jersey

Niels Bensink is the current mens Pump Track world champion (Image credit: Red Bull)

Pump Track is a looped circuit of banked corners and smooth rollers, designed so that riders are completely powered by their momentum, with no pedaling required. Riders race against each other in a winner takes all scenario. There are many gold-medal contenders for the Crankworx Cairns Pump Track Challenge, with masterclass champions of the sport like 2022 Crankworx Cairns Pump Track defending champion Jayce Cunning, current World Champion Niels Bensink, Tuhoto-Ariki Pene, and Bas van Steenbergen, it's sure to see razor-thin margins and seriously tight battles among the men’s field. The reigning Queen of Crankworx, Caroline Buchanan, is arguably the one to watch for the women’s field, but with young gun Kiwi rider Jenna Hastings in the field, who will also be hungry for a gold medal, it’s sure to be a thrilling battle.

3. Duel Slalom

Harriet Burbidge-Smith and Jess Blewitt racing duel slalom

Harriet Burbidge-Smith and Jess Blewitt at Rotorua (Image credit: Red Bull)

Duel Slalom is the party race! A short race format competition where two riders compete simultaneously on two identical or very similar downhill courses while being timed. After each run, they swap course lanes and do a second run. The aim is for the riders to complete the courses as quickly as possible.

This one got absolutely rowdy for Crankworx 2022, from a mandatory wall ride to moguls, this Crankworx Dual Slalom track is like no other. In last year's Specialized Dual Slalom, Cairns' own Mick Hannah got the crowd going wild as he battled the King of Crankworx, Bas van Steenbergen in a tight race. This year, Maxxis athletes Jackson Frew and Bas van Steenbergen will be charging for that top step and it’s fair to say it may be these three on the podium, but it's anyone's race for who will stand on which step. Maxxis athlete Caroline Buchanan emerged victorious in 2022 and based on her World Tour results this year, few can knock her off the first-place position. Red Bull rider Harriet Burbidge-Smith, 2022 Crankworx Rotorua Dual Slalom champ, Marin rider Martha Gill, and Jenna Hastings will all surely be nipping at the Queen of Crankworx' heels in this race.

4. Slopestyle

Rider performing a flip spin

Slopestyle sees riders perform mind blowing tricks (Image credit: Red Bull)

When you see one rider after the other complete astonishing runs full of mind-blowing tricks on huge jumps, it can almost be hard to fathom and the 2022 Crankworx Cairns Slopestyle event was an unforgettable event as the top slopestyle riders in the world battled it out. 

Last year was the first time Cairns had hosted and fans witnessed moments so tense that you could hear a pin drop, and moments so explosive they were nearly deafening. SRAM athlete Nicholi Rogatkin emerged as the winner, followed by Erik Fedko and Max Fredriksson. This year’s Slopestyle event is also sure to keep everyone on the edge of their seat with Maxxis athlete Emil Johansson looking to improve from last year’s contest. Dawid Godziek will look to find another few points in his bag of tricks to surpass Johansson, and the defending champion Nicholi Rogatkin may also pull it all together for a two for two Crankworx Cairns Slopestyle gold-medal.

5. Speed and Style

Two riders competing at Crankworx Speed and Style in New Zealand

Speed and Style combines the creativity of Slopestyle and the head-to-head nature of dual slalom (Image credit: Red Bull)

What do you get if you combine the creativity of Slopestyle and the head-to-head competitive style of Dual Slalom? The answer is Speed and Style. Riders not only need to get down the course quicker than their competitors, but also try and out-trick them along the way. The track for the Speed and Style event is a collaboration with Elevate Trail Building and Flux Trail, and it spans 285m, showcased for speed, technicality, and airtime with seven berms, a shark fin, and two jumps. 

With Tomas Lemoine absent this year, the 2023 Crankworx Rotorua Speed and Style gold-medalist Mike Ross is looking like the man to beat, with the extra motivation of just missing out on the podium last year. The women’s field is stacked with many of the riders no strangers to the podium. The Queen of Crankworx, Caroline Buchanan, has been promising never before seen tricks, and with freeride stars like Robin Goomes and Harriet Burbidge-Smith, it's set up for an exciting competitive event.

Crankworx has it all, thrilling downhill mountain bike racing, all the excitement of riders performing insanely tough tricks, and high-speed head-to-head racing against the clock. The event is available to watch live all weekend over at RedBull.com and check out the highlights from round one in New Zealand below.

Paul Brett
Staff writer

Paul Brett is a staff writer for BikePerfect.com. He has been an avid cyclist for as long as he can remember, initially catching the mountain biking bug in the 1990s, and raced mountain bikes for over a decade before injury cut short a glittering career. He’s since developed an obsession for gravel riding and recently has dabbled in the dark art of cyclocross. A fan of the idea of bikepacking he has occasionally got involved and has ridden routes like the North Coast 500, Scotland and the Via Francigena (Pilgrim Route), Italy.

Current rides: Marin Alpine Trail 2, Ribble 725, Cube Stereo 160

Height: 175cm