Olympian Karen Hanlen blitzed the elite women's field to win the final round of crosscountry at the mountain bike cup series in Hunua, Auckland yesterday.
Hanlen took the victory in a time of 1:38:50, almost five minutes ahead of second-place Kate Fluker of Queenstown, who finished in 1:43:33. Fiona MacDermid of Palmerston North took third place in a time of 1:49:05.
Hanlen, who controlled the race right from the start, was pleased with the win.
"I was pretty happy, last weekend was the opposite, so I really wanted to work on my start," Hanlen said.
"It was quite different compared to the other courses, it was pretty flat but with some really tight sections in the trees. It's always good to be able to ride on some different courses."
Hanlen will be lining up at the national championships in Rotorua next weekend, with her hopes set on taking the crosscountry champions jersey once again.
"I'm looking forward to it. I think I'm ready. I'll give it a good go."
In the elite men's race, junior world champion Anton Cooper snatched the win from Dirk Peters, after the under-23 and elite categories were combined into one race.
Cooper's winning time of 1:44:12 showed the phenomenal talent the 18-year-old possesses. Rotorua's Peters finished second in a time of 1:45:50 and Mike Northcott from Tokoroa came across the line in 1:48:52 to take third.
Cooper was well aware of the tough competition he would face from his more experienced competitors, especially current national champion Peters.
"It was really hard work out there today," Cooper said. "It's been really tight racing with Dirk. He's an amazing rider and is super talented. He's come a long way recently, and is riding so well."
Cooper hopes that his current form will be enough to win him the under-23 national championship next weekend, before he begins his professional season with Cannondale Factory Racing in Europe.
"I can't wait for the nationals. I think I've got in it me. I've been working really hard and would love to be able to take that jersey racing overseas. It would be awesome for both me and my team."
The mountain bike national championships will take place next weekend at the Whakarewarewa forest near Rotorua, with competition set for both downhill and cross country categories.