Supremacy once again is within his reach, writes Andy McGechan.
Time is fast running out for Paul Whibley's rivals.
The New Zealand motorcycle ace dubbed "The Axeman" has taken another huge step closer to securing this season's Grand National Cross Country Championships title in the United States with a runner-up finish at the 10th round of 13 a week ago.
Already the championship leader before the day began, the 34-year-old former forestry worker from Pahiatua, pocketed solid points at the undulating Unadilla course, near New York, putting himself even further in front in the title chase.
The race winner was American Thad DuVall (Honda), in his breakthrough first win of the competition. He is no threat to Whibley.
The high-profile series had just ended its mid-summer break - temperatures being too hot on America's east coast - and Whibley showed he was well prepared for the resumption with yet another podium finish in what he hopes will help him reclaim the US championship title he last held in 2009.
"Thad (DuVall) and I were battling at the end, until I hit a rock and broke my rear brake lever on the last lap," Whibley says. "There was no way I could keep up with Thad after that.
He was riding really well, so I just chose to back it down and try to ride with him and make sure I got some good points."
Whibley (Yamaha YZ450F) has missed only one podium finish all season - that a solid fourth in round eight of the series at Snowshoe in West Virginia in June - enabling him now to build a seven-point lead over his nearest rival, American rider Kailub Russell.
Russell (KTM) finished fourth at Unadilla.
Another Kiwi, 2011 NZ enduro champion Rory Mead, finished ninth at Unadilla but maintains his hold on third overall in the XC1 Pro Championship standings.
The next round of the series is in St Clairsville, Ohio, on October 7.