Great Britain's Bernard Kerr edged out Christchurch downhill rider Cam Cole by the narrowest of margins to win the first round of the BikeNZ Mountain Bike Cup Series in Bluff.
Kerr claimed victory in the elite men's race with a time of 2:52.35, a mere 0.04 of a second ahead of Cole on the 1.37km track descending the iconic Bluff Hill at the weekend.
Louis Hamilton from Rotorua took third place with 2:55.43.
Kerr defeated a strong field with riders from France, Japan, Brazil, Canada, and New Zealand.
"My race run wasn't perfect, it was really windy, which made it difficult to do all of the jumps, but overall I'm really happy," Kerr said. "It was really fun, and I'm looking forward to the next races in the series before I leave in February."
Another British rider, Jess Stone, outrode her opponents to claim victory in the elite women's race.
Stone rode a time of 3:29.16, more than 13 seconds faster than second-placed Alanna Columb (Queenstown), 3:42.75, and former Oceania Champion Amy Laird (Christchurch), who was third in 3:45.06.
Local knowledge proved valuable for Connor Harvey (Invercargill) winning the under-19 men's category in 3:07.06, with Raphael Kammlein-Cutler (Dunedin) and Lawrence Cawte in second and third respectively.
Conditions had improved dramatically after unseasonably cold weather midweek, with the track drying out after five days of rain.
In yesterday's cross country , the elite title was won by Rotorua's Dirk Peters who was part of the New Zealand under-23 team in last year's world championships.
Peters won the five-lap elite men's race in convincing style with a time of 1:47:16. The 21-year-old made the most of favourable conditions to get an early lead on his opponents, including fellow Rotorua rider Carl Jones who took second in 1:50:36, and Auckland's Adrian Retief in third with 1:52:27.
Cross country riders will face two more rounds in the Mountain Bike Cup series at Mt Victoria in Wellington on 1-3 February, and Hunua in Auckland on 8-9 February, ahead of the National Championships in Rotorua on 15-17 February.
Downhill riders have three more rounds; Mt Hutt next weekend, Levin on 1-2 February, and Hunua in Auckland on 8-9 February, before the National Championships in Rotorua on 15-17 February.