March 5th, 2020 12:00am
ROTORUA, NEW ZEALAND March 5, 2020 - Standing in the finish corral having bested a stacked field of some of the world’s fastest and most skilled riders, Kyle Strait (USA) could still barely believe he’d managed to tame the new 100% Dual Slalom Rotorua track.
“I still feel like I don’t know how to ride it,” laughed the 32-year-old, who beat Bas van Steenbergen (CAN) in the final match-up. “I honestly am kind of baffled. 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 OTB and gates get missed, all while riders tried to pick up speed when possible and dump it when necessary.
Kyle Strait and Lars Van Steenberg throwing down in the mens dual slalom final
“The new track is awesome,” added Strait of the course built at Skyline Rotorua by famed Kiwi course building duo Empire of Dirt. “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 was fired up after her second win in two days, having beaten Casey Brown (CAN) in both rounds of the pro women’s finals.
“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.”
Jill Kitner on her way to the top stop in the Crankworx dual slalom.
2020 marks Kintner’s return to 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.”
Strait’s win also pushes him to the top of the overall leaderboard, with tonight’s points adding to those he earned with his sixth place finish in yesterday’s Rotorua Air DH presented by Bosch.
Kitner and Brown are regularly competing for the top spot and will mostly likely continue through 2020