The ideal pre-race preparation for the majority of people would rarely include a viral infection. But despite still reeling from illness that had him bedridden just days earlier, Carl Jones managed to not only take the win in the NDuro Whaka 100 mountain bike race, but also smash his own record in the process.
Jones returned from Malaysia on Tuesday with the NZXC team after competing in the arduous Tour of Langkawi. His girlfriend Katie O'Neill was already unwell and she decided not to race on Saturday. Jones said he'd spent the week trying to recover in time for a good hit out.
"I've been in bed all week trying to study and rest," he said.
"Friday I hydrated as hard as I could to try to flush it out. I don't feel weak but I've still got a sore throat."
He said there was clear motivation to tackle the course - a race he had previously won twice. The lure of prizemoney was a tangible carrot but also going up against Commonwealth Games silver medallist Sam Gaze.
"I wanted to beat him, he gets all the publicity," Jones said jokingly.
"It's hard when you're coming through so you always want to beat the best rider. The whole idea of going to Malaysia was to come back and win this race. I wanted to win it that bad."
Gaze broke away at Split Enz with Jones working with Sam Shaw and Dirk Peters to make sure the gap didn't widen by too much. Jones broke from the others as the big climbs took hold, he closed the gap on Direct Rd by one minute. He caught sight of Gaze as the race got into the business end, heading up Katore Rd but a course error at 87km took Gaze out of contention.
"He went the wrong way somewhere, but I followed the map," Jones said.
Race director Tim Farmer confirmed Gaze had gone off course, following the lead moto who went the wrong way. Gaze pulled out of the race as a result.
The women's race was won by first-time Karen Hanlen, though the Whakatane rider's pedigree would have put her in contention. The Olympian said she had always wanted to race the Whaka 100 but the timing had never suited until this year.
"I've been doing heaps more long distance training and I've wanted to do it, this year it worked out perfectly," she said.
"It was heaps of fun, lots of single trail but it's a challenge. My big goal was to finish."
Hanlen's next goal is the Huka XL at Taupo next month then gearing up for nationals and trying to qualify for the Rio Olympics. Her son Caleb was one of the many youngsters who took part in the kids race earlier on in the day.
There were more than 400 entries for the event, including three riders who set off at 11.30pm the night before to tackle two laps.
Men: Carl Jones 4:31:59 1, Sam Shaw 4:38:09 2, Josh Parkin 4:47:43 3, Dirk Peters 4:49:16 4, Tad Mejdr 4:57:01 5;
Women: Karen Hanlen 5:34:35 1, Margaret Leyland 6:27:20 2, Erin Greene 6:32:16 3, Harriet Miller 6:33:04 4, Amy Haddon 6:43:44 5.
Men: Nathan Johnston 2:22:20 1, Graham Norman 2:28:12 2, Taylor Johnston 2:29:25 3, Tom Coombes 2:31:34 4, Jake Craggs 2:39:19 5.
Women: Jessica Manchester 2:48:55 1, Jemma Manchester 2:48:55 2, Danielle Zwart 2:50:03 3, Greta Donaldson 2:57:33 4, Amber Johnston 3:04:00 5.
Men: Josh Lee 1:20:01 1, Tristan Haycock 1:25:16 2, Christian James 1:25:42 3, George Gwynn 1:26:47 4, Mike Mackey 1:29:20 5.
Women: Cati Pearson 1:42:30 1, Lani Julian 1:51:36 2, Larissa Zimmermann 1:54:32 3, Elizabeth Timm 4, Lori Norton 2:06:16 5.