What has two wheels, two legs and races downhill at breakneck speeds? Thirteen-year-old thrill seeker Caitlin Flavell.

While plenty of people in Rotorua are looking forward to Crankworx which started on Saturday you get the feeling Caitlin is more excited than most.

The John Paul College student will race in the Redwoods Downhill today and Air Downhill and the National Schools Downhill Championships later in the week.

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Her love for Crankworx is evident as her eyes light up just talking about it.

"The atmosphere is amazing with all the people here from different countries, you meet a lot of new people and you get to just ride your bike and have fun.

"I like the downhill because I like doing a lot of steep stuff and going fast," Caitlin said.

She admitted flying downhill and tackling some big jumps was scary at times, but said "you've just got to do it, get over it". Her competitive drive was a good motivator as well.

"My goal [for Crankworx this year] is to hopefully win everything. I'm a very competitive person, even at school and during PE, I always have to win.

"You really have to have that drive, you're not going to go anywhere if you're just like 'oh yeah, I'd like to win but I know I'm not going to."

As a 3-year-old, Caitlin was "dragged around the forest" on the back of a 'tag-along' bike with her dad Allan. She started racing BMX when she was 4, before discovering a love for downhill as a 10-year-old, when the Skyline course opened.

Rotorua's Caitlin Flavell got into biking at a young age through BMX, before discovering a passion for downhill mountain biking. Photo / File
Rotorua's Caitlin Flavell got into biking at a young age through BMX, before discovering a passion for downhill mountain biking. Photo / File

Three years later she knows the course better than most people know their own driveways. She was the first female to tick off 100 runs at Skyline and her tally now sits at 426.


"It's just amazing, the feeling of the wind on your face and you're just going so fast, it's a huge adrenaline rush."

Her favourite win so far was in her first "proper" downhill race in Napier, as a 12-year-old, where she finished second in the under-19 race behind the junior elite world No 2 at the time Shania Lawson, of Papamoa.

She is the defending under-13 champion in the National Schools Downhill Championships.

"It's a really good event because kids who are getting into it, but can't do the big, hard races, can have a go.

"Rotorua is amazing for mountain biking. We've got Crankworx for another 10 years, we've got the Redwoods, Skyline, it's all here."

She still races BMX and has raced at multiple world championships.

"I'm still keeping my options open, I'm not saying 'I just want to do downhill, that's all I'm going to do'."

There were benefits to racing in both.

"My BMXing has really helped my jumping skills and the downhill has helped me to pick up my speed and pedal in places I normally wouldn't pedal in BMX."

In the long-term, she has her eyes on a professional career in downhill racing. It appears she has the desire and determination to make it happen.