Celebrating Crankworx – How it all rolled out
It may be hard to believe the reason Crankworx made it to New Zealand was because of someone eavesdropping on a conversation – but it was. And while that’s not the whole story, the rumour mill certainly played a part in bringing one of the hottest international events on the annual mountain biking calendar down to Rotorua.
“A mate was in a café in Australia and overheard a conversation about Crankworx potentially heading there,” recalls Tak Mutu, the event director of Crankworx Rotorua.
“He got on the phone to us here in New Zealand and we cold-called Darren Kinnaird, the GM of Crankworx, to say ‘You should bring Crankworx to Rotorua!’”
To which the reply was, “Yeah sure, but where’s Rotorua?” chuckles Tak.
Not one to sit around wasting time, Tak whipped out his personal credit card, got Darren on a plane down to New Zealand and within 24 hours of being in Rotorua, he said “Yup, this is the new home of Crankworx.”
But, what actually sold it to him was the people, explains Tak.
“Yes, we have amazing trails – some of the best in the world – but Darren couldn’t believe how friendly everyone was.
We went out to Eat Streat the first night he arrived and he actually thought I had staged actors to talk to him about Crankworx and mountain biking! I said ‘Nah, it’s just our town bro.’”
For Tak, convincing Darren to bring down Crankworx was the easy part. What came next was eight months of incredibly hard (but enjoyable) work, to bring together a team of literally hundreds. From establishing a board, to recruiting 200 volunteers, they also had to secure $1.8million dollars to get the event up and running.
Fortunately, when time came for the festival to touch down, March 2015, everyone was ready. However, ticket sales were tracking lower than expected – although there was hope that the big event on the Sunday would attract the crowds – but then came the rain.
“We didn’t even know if the event was going to be able to run, let alone that people would come along to see it,” says Tak.
“There were literally helicopters flying in the air to see if there would be a weather break. Finally, we got the news we were waiting for – there was one more rain band coming through and then there’d be a three-and-a-half-hour window of clearer skies.
”Someone must have been shining down on Crankworx Rotorua that day, because after a five-minute torrential downpour, it stopped, the riders got to drop in for a warm up and the final races were ready to be run. The only thing missing? An audience.
“Our team was out with brooms and leaf blowers drying the tracks, but what we didn’t have was crowds,” recalls Tak.
“Then one of the guys called out, ‘Bro, have you seen what is happening down the bottom?’ There were lines of people, not cars, people – out of Skyline and all along the road. The highway patrol had to bring in more units from Tauranga to help and that day we literally sold 1000s of tickets. It was the best way to finish such an epic event.”
And as they say, the rest is history.