American rider Jill Kintner has left it all out on the dirt, reclaiming the top podium spot in the Crankworx Rotorua Air Downhill, and top spot in the race to claim the Queen of Crankworx title in 2018.

The reigning Queen of Crankworx ran a smooth and calculated race on Skyline Rotorua's Mr Black trail yesterday to take the win.

In the same event last year, she missed out on first by 0.09 seconds.

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"I was pretty fired up after last year. I sprinted a lot harder and knew exactly where I touched my brakes at every part and just stuck to my little practice plan," Kintner said.

2017's race belonged to Vaea Verbeeck, of Canada. This year she and Kintner swapped places, with just 1.88 seconds between them. Emilie Siegenthaler, of Switzerland, rounded out the top three.

"This whole track is about being on the right edges, knowing which jumps are too short, which ones are long and then where you can pedal and where you brake. It's about executing as precisely as you can. It's fairly easy to ride, but to race it's a completely different game. Very strategic," Kintner said.

Yesterday's race results mirror the current top two in the race for Queen of Crankworx. Kintner now leads with 375 points, with Verbeeck just 10 points behind her. Casey Brown, of Canada, shifts into third after yesterday's race, with 325.

In the pro men's category a similar shuffle took place, with 2017 winner Matt Walker, of New Zealand, bringing in the second fastest time of the day this year, followed by Czech Tomas Slavik, who also takes one step down from his result last year, ending the day in third place.

Australian Mick Hannah was the fastest man at the Crankworx Rotorua Air Downhill. Photo / Fraser Britton/Crankworx
Australian Mick Hannah was the fastest man at the Crankworx Rotorua Air Downhill. Photo / Fraser Britton/Crankworx

The usurper? Mick Hannah, of Australia. Hannah stormed the track this year, laying down a 2m 8.96s run, 0.72 seconds ahead of Walker.

"It was just perfect conditions. On this track you just have to maintain a really good, smooth line all the way. Lay down the pedals when you can and conserve energy you can. It all went to plan and I had a great run," Hannah said.

Despite losing his claim to the top step of the Air DH podium, Walker was pleased to walk away with some valuable points toward the King of Crankworx title. His points have been hard fought - today's fourth pro-level event at Crankworx Rotorua marks Walker's fourth competition.

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"After the Enduro I was absolutely toast," said Walker, who placed third in the Giant Toa Enduro on the first day of competition, then followed that up with a fifth in the Redwoods DH and a fourth in the 100% Dual Slalom Rotorua.

Crankworx Rotorua Air Downhill's top finishers celebrate on the podium. Photo / Fraser Britton/Crankworx
Crankworx Rotorua Air Downhill's top finishers celebrate on the podium. Photo / Fraser Britton/Crankworx

"I've had a few rest days. But went surfing when I probably shouldn't have. But you just gotta keep trucking along, having a bit of fun along the way."

Walker now sits in second place in the season-long battle with 305 points. Fellow Kiwi Sam Blenkinsop holds the lead with 350. Hannah's win also bumps him up near the pointy end of the rankings, into fourth behind Keegan Wright. With one more downhill race looming at the end of the week, the Crankworx Rotorua Downhill, the heat is on.

The battle for King and Queen of Crankworx
King:
1st Sam Blenkinsop, NZL, Total Points: 350
Rotorua Enduro: 150
Rotorua Redwoods DH: 150
Rotorua Air DH: 50

2nd Matt Walker, NZL, Total Points: 305
Rotorua Enduro: 115
Rotorua Dual Slalom: 50
Rotorua Redwoods DH: 40
Rotorua Air DH: 100

3rd Keegan Wright, NZL, Total Points: 275
Rotorua Enduro: 225
Rotorua Redwoods DH: 50

Queen:
1st Jill Kintner, USA, Total Points: 375
Rotorua Redwoods DH: 75
Rotorua Dual Slalom: 150
Rotorua Air DH: 150

2nd Vaea Verbeeck, CAN, Total Points: 365
Rotorua Enduro: 115
Rotorua Redwoods DH: 150
Rotorua Air DH: 100

3rd Casey Brown, CAN, Total Points: 325
Rotorua Enduro: 225
Rotorua Redwoods DH: 100