Karapoti won, now for the Crankworx

Precocious mountainbiker Eden Cruise takes on another challenge this week.

Cruise will compete at the Crankworx festival in Rotorua, which doubles as the opening round of the world enduro series.

Downhill racing is not Cruise’s speciality and he has little idea of the strength of the European challenge at Rotorua but hopes to be competitive in the under-21 section.

Crankworx is billed as the world’s biggest mountain biking festival and is the first of eight rounds in the enduro series, which runs from March to October, with the other rounds staged in Europe.

“It’s a pretty awesome event,” Cruise said. “I’m more of a cross-country rider but it will be a bit of fun and good for my skill development.”

Cruise, a year 11 at St Pat’s Town, hit one of his main targets for the season when winning the elite men’s section at the Karapoti Classic this month.

The 15-year-old became the youngest winner of the gruelling 50km event, a record previously held by Commonwealth Games gold medallist Anton Cooper, who was 16 when he won the race in 2011.

Cruise had set himself the goal of beating Cooper’s record and ranked the win alongside his first Oceania age group title as a career high point.

He is accustomed to being a Karapoti trailblazer and became the youngest to finish the 50km event when he first tackled the race, as a nine-year-old, in 2009. He finished 12th in 2012, sixth in 2013, and fourth last year.

He felt he had gone too hard, too early last year and avoided being involved with the early pace this year.

He also had a fall but was still able to finish 45 seconds ahead of Tom Bradshaw, with Mat Waghorn, the 2012 winner, in third place.

“It was pretty cool coming across the line, knowing that I had done it,” Cruise said.

Cruise’s biking career will step up a notch next year, when he will be old enough to compete in the World Cup series and the 2018 Commonwealth Games is a long-term target.

Biking is not his only sporting interest and he will play rugby for the Town second XV this winter and also compete in the school cross-country athletics events.