The best mountain bikers in the world have begun their migration to New Zealand for Crankworx Rotorua 2020.
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• Crankworx Rotorua opens today with Dual Slalom
The event, which marks the beginning of the international mountain bike season, runs from March 1-8, with the all-stars of the sport signing up to compete.
With less than two weeks to go, preliminary rider lists have now been released for the Air DH, Dual Slalom, Speed & Style, Slopestyle in Memory of McGazza, Pump Track Challenge and Rotorua Downhill.
The rider to beat in the women's competition is the reigning Queen of Crankworx Vaea Verbeeck. The Canadian is signed up to take on seven events, five of which have points on offer in the 2020 battle for Queen.
"I am stoked for the racing to start and to see how everyone stepped their game up over the off season," Verbeeck said.
"I've been working pretty hard on my end to make sure I have all sorts of skills covered and am ready for Crankworx ... a good mix of training on and off the bikes. I go back to the basics and work on sprints, gate starts, setting up flat corners, and then I just ride all four bikes to feel good on all of them."
Also taking on seven events is Georgia Astle. Like Verbeeck, Astle has been riding competitively for a number of years, more recently focusing on broadening her skill set to prepare for the multidisciplinary challenge that is Crankworx. She's competed in Rotorua before, but this is her first year taking on so many events.
Other women likely making a push for the top are Kialani Hines - second behind Verbeeck in the overall standings in 2019, Anneke Beerten - third in 2019, Casey Brown - taking on six events in Rotorua, Jordy Scott - making her Crankworx Rotorua debut, this up-and-comer made her mark in Whistler in 2019, winning the inaugural women's Speed & Style and coming in second in the RockShox Ultimate Pump Track Challenge.
Alongside them, a competitor who's no stranger to going full gas across disciplines. After taking a year off to focus on racing Enduro, Jill Kintner is back and ready to dive into Crankworx competition.
"A lot of hard work goes into being prepared to compete in so many events at Crankworx, so now the planning is mostly done, boxes have been ticked, parts are showing up daily, and I am ready to ride my best when it counts."
On the men's side, a stacked field is set to face off across all disciplines.
Rotorua local Keegan Wright is signed up for the most, taking on seven events over the eight days of the festival, five of which have points on offer for the overall King of Crankworx title.
Nipping at his heels is Kaos Seagrave who's on deck to compete in the full Crankworx World Tour in 2020. Manager Tony Seagrave says "Kaos has been training his butt off" ahead of Crankworx as he prepares to take on more disciplines. Seagrave will be lining up at the start gate in six events in Rotorua.
Other pro men to watch for are Sam Blenkinsop - 2018's King of Crankworx and recent winner in both the New Zealand and Oceania Continental DH Championships, Adrien Loron - 2017's King and runner-up in 2019, Tomas Lemoine - third in 2019 and the only Slopestyle rider who competes outside the discipline, Elliot Heap - DH racer turned Enduro shredder, now taking on six events at Crankworx Rotorua.
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