American rider Kyle Strait may have won the Crankworx dual slalom race but he was confused at how he did it.

Facing against some of the world's fastest and most skilled mountainbike riders, Strait was surprised that he had managed to tame the new 100% Dual Slalom Rotorua track on Thursday.

"I still feel like I don't know how to ride it," laughed the 32-year-old, who beat Canada's Bas van Steenbergen in the final match-up.

"I honestly am kind of baffled," he says.

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"I always kind of know that I can do well in Slalom and it's something I really enjoy. I struggled all practice, and qualifying was a struggle as well. I qualified seventh, so I wasn't quite off the back but a little bit off.

"So it would play tricks in my head, like 'No, no, it doesn't matter. You've just got to go through the rounds and put everything you have into it every single round. So I kept doing that and making huge mistakes, but I kept being able to make it through each round just by the tiniest amount.

Somehow it worked out in the end."

The win came after a wild night of head-to-head racing that saw chains snap, riders go over the bar and gates get missed.

Strait says he was impressed with the new track, built at Skyline Rotorua by Empire of Dirt, rating it as one of the best around

"It's probably one of the best on the circuit right now. It's really, really technical. Technical in the way that every single run is kind of different, and if you try and go too fast, it's going to throw you on your ass.

So, it's really hard but I enjoyed riding it."

It was a sentiment echoed by Jill Kintner (USA), who won the women's race - her second win in two days, having beaten Canada's Casey Brown in both rounds of the pro women's finals.

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"It was crazy because it started out really packed in and really nice and then started deteriorating and deteriorating, and the flat corners were really kind of the breaking point a lot of times. You can't override it, you can't come in too fast. You just have to be really patient and look for the next gate.

"So it's easy to mess up and easy to be impatient, especially in a race. It was a nice mix of challenging features."

This year is Kintner's return to the Crankworx competition.

After winning the Queen of Crankworx for the third straight year in 2018, she took a brief hiatus for most of 2019 to race Enduro. In 2020 she's committed to the full Crankworx World Tour once again.

Two competitions deep, Queen of Crankworx points stacking up, her eyes are clearly on the prize.

"It feels good. You never know coming in how you're going to go. I don't feel like I have the same amount of pressure, and I'm kind of relaxed and just enjoying it for this year."
Thursday's win follows her number one spot in the women's race of the Rotorua Air DH.

"We had a really stacked field, actually the most girls I've ever seen I think," said Jill Kintner after her 2:26.86 winning run, five seconds faster than Anneke Beerten (NED), who came in at 2:31.12 and nearly 10 seconds faster than 2019's Queen Vaea Verbeeck who finished in 2:34.00.

"A lot of top talent, so it was pretty cool to make a return and take a win."

Kiwi rider Sam Blenkinsop took the win in the Rotorua Air DH men's race, finishing in a time of 2:17.99, just over one second faster than both the second and third place finishers.

Tomas Slavik (CZE) came in at 2:18.74 and Matt Walker (NZL) clocked 2:18.97.

"I didn't really think I could do good on this," Blenkinsop said.

"I've always been, like, fourth on this race, because I always feel like I'm dead because I've done too many other events.

Today I felt fresh after two days off. I guess the Slalom guys were a bit more rooted than me, so I had a bit more legs than them. Everyone was still so close."

Rotorua's Keegan Wright finished Thursday's 100% Dual Slalom in sixth place, following a sixth place finish in the Rotorua Air DH the day before. Fellow Rotorua rider, Cole Lucas, finished the slalom in 19th.

Rotorua-based rider Shania Rawson finished the 100% Dual Slalom race in 11th place.

Crankworx Rotorua continues today and tomorrow.

FULL RESULTS:

100% Dual Slalom Rotorua – Pro Men and Pro Women
OVERALL STANDINGS:
King and Queen of Crankworx