The inaugural running of Crankworx in Rotorua, New Zealand left a couple of local riders worse for wear.
In her debut event for the Juliana-SRAM Professional Mountain Bike Team, enduro rider Sarah Leishman took a tumble and suffered a separated shoulder for which she is undergoing physiotherapy. She said she was set to get back on her bike on Monday (April 6) training with a sling and a brace.
"I was having a pretty good day," she said. "It was a trail that suited me, for sure, pretty similar to Whistler. I had a little crash before the chute section and I think I just got straight away. I hit these two quite steep chutes. I hit the first one with a bit of speed and I hit the second one with way too much speed and I basically just aired off the top.
"I just bounced and dislocated my shoulder and did some damage to my opposite thumb."
In her first race since last June, again because of injury, Leishman was glad to get back in the saddle and use Rotorua as a litmus test for herself against some of the world's top racers.
"New Zealand was a good test for me. I didn't know where I stood against the other girls in the world," she noted. "In the stages that I stayed on my bike, I was right in there, so I think I'll be OK."
Leishman described a tough, flat first stage with wet roots leading to "a healthy mix of stuff that was quite similar to Karate Monkey in the bike park." From there, it was a mix of technical elements before a downhill bike-style section. While she was generally happy with the event, there are some changes to consider for a second-go-around in the southern hemisphere.
"The race itself was done really well, but I thought that some of the transfer times were not thought out as well as they could have been," she said. "All the pro women basically spent the first three and a half hours of the day at our absolute limit and then it started to get more reasonable, where you'd have 10 minutes before the stages."
In terms of crowds, Leishman compared the New Zealand faithful to a group of Heckle Fest attendees who may have even surpassed the rowdiness of a local event.
"In New Zealand, everybody was fired up. The locals were so stoked, super enthusiastic," she said. "It was cool."
Leishman's injury will keep her out of the Subaru Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, Calif. later this month, though she will attend to support her teammates. She hopes to be back for the GO Fest Enduro race here in Whistler on May 16 and 17 as part of the North American Enduro Tour. She'll look to defend her title from the inaugural running in 2014.
In addition to being part of the inaugural Crankworx event at Rotorua, Leishman also feels fortunate to have joined Team Juliana, the first all-female enduro team.
"We talked to a few pro women and they thought it was pretty rad," she said. "They admired it and suggested they'd be interested in being a part of it. Hopefully it's the start of something that happens with other brands in the industry, too.
"I feel lucky that they asked me to be part of it."
In addition to Leishman, young rider Finn Iles made the journey to New Zealand, but the 2014 World Whip-Off Champion wasn't able to get into any competitive action. Per the Team Lapierre Gravity Republic website, Iles was sidelined with a broken thumb. However, Dirt Mountain Bike Magazine reported his journey wasn't entirely a wash, as he got a seat at the judges' table for a front-row view of Californian Ryan Howard taking the title.