The Giant 2W Gravity Enduro wrapped up on Saturday and Rotorua's Daniel Self was a winner in more ways than one.
Self went into the weekend's third and final round with the overall lead in the premier six stage series.
On Saturday he finished third with an accumulated time of 27 minutes, behind Cole Lucas (26m 4s) and Keegan Wright (26m 2s). Third place was enough for Self to take the overall series win.
But, during prizegiving, his weekend got event better. Self became the first recipient of the $10,000 Mark Dunlop Memorial Scholarship.
Before this year's series began, event owners Heather Logie and Shane Spicer, of HeroDirt Limited, decided to gift the event to the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club.
As a condition, HeroDirt specified that the club established the Mark Dunlop Memorial Scholarship to be awarded each year to a rider to support their international racing dreams. Dunlop committed suicide in 2016 at the age of 31.
When the scholarship was established ahead of this year's series, Dunlop's sister Hayley said "Mark was a bright light in the enduro riding community".
"He loved riding his bike and sharing that love with others. He supported so many riders to achieve their riding goals while still quietly working towards his own. He would love to know he is still helping riders to chase their dreams."
Self competed in several rounds of the Enduro World Series last year. Competing in the men's under-21 section, he entered the first six rounds and finished 11th overall, his best result being seventh in Canada. When he spoke to the Rotorua Daily Post in November, he said he was eager to compete again this year, but it would depend on his finances.
On Saturday, he said he was "blown away" by receiving the scholarship.
"I wasn't really expecting it at all, there's so many talented young riders here and such a strong field. It could've gone to anyone, there are a lot of deserving people.
"I'm blown away by the support, it makes a huge difference when you're overseas. It opens up a bit more space. I have a couple of races coming up in March and April, then I was planning to come back and work before I went away again. With this, I might be able to focus a bit more on training full time and actually coming into the races like those guys that are on salaries.
"There are no excuses now."
On Saturday, Self had to borrow a friend's bike to race on, but said it served as a valuable reminder that he often goes better when he's having fun.
"I wasn't going to race, ended up on a mate's bike and just went for it. I wasn't really gelling well with the bike but came home third. That was a good lesson, to just go out and have fun riding, that's when the speed comes.
"I'm super stoked to take the overall win, I had a few consistent races. It was a pretty close competition and it's a good feeling to know I've been riding well for the last couple of months."
In the women's six stage series, Auckland's Jenna Makgill, a former Cycle Courier World Cup Champion and Downhill World Cup rider, finished equal first with Rae Morrison in 31m 30s. That was enough to claim the overall series win after finishing first and second in the first two rounds.
During the prizegiving, the fastest junior boy and girl, Blake Schimanski and Jenna Hastings, received the Cole Walker Memorial Award which included free entry into next year's series.
Walker was a 20-year-old Te Puke mountain biker who died after suffering critical injuries in a mountain biking accident in the Redwood Forest in 2015.