Course records have fallen and new winners have been crowned at the 11th edition of the Whaka 100.
The 100km endurance race on the world-class mountain bike trail network in the Whakarewarewa Forest, held today, attracted some of the best riders from around the world and it was Wellington's Edwin Crossling and Manawatu's Josie Wilcox who won the men's and women's races respectively.
Crossling, who represented New Zealand at the Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships in Germany in June, was desperate for a win at Rotorua on the weekend, having finished second in each of the last two years as well as in 2010.
He crossed the finish line first in five hours, 21 minutes and 31 seconds, shaving nine seconds off the course record set by last year's winner Jack Compton.
"There was so much climbing today, it really is the hardest race that I have ever done. I've done a lot of road races and mountain bike races - it is just brutal.
"But it just went perfect today, I stuck to my plan, nutrition, everything went just as I wanted and I felt great the whole day," Crossling said.
He said his biggest mistake in previous years was going too hard too early.
"It just went perfect for me, the strategy I wanted to play out just went as I planned. I was sort of always at the front but just made sure I held back until about halfway and then I just went for it.
"I've changed my nutrition hugely. It's funny, my girlfriend went vegan and I've gone mostly vegan, but i still eat a bit of meat. But, that's probably been the big thing for me is sorting out my diet. It's absolutely key and I got it spot-on today."
He said breaking the course record was the cherry on top in an event in which winning has been a high ambition for years.
"My one and only goal for this weekend was to win today. This is pretty much top of the list, in terms of mountain biking it's the one I wanted to get because it really is so hard. I've done lots of other cool races, New Zealand has heaps of cool events, but this is the one I really wanted," he said.
Another Wellington rider, Cosmo Bloor, finished second in 05:31:08 and Australia's Jason English rounded out the top three in 05:31:30. Tauranga's Tristan Haycock was the best of the locals, finishing fifth in 05:51:10.
Wilcox, tackling the Whaka 100 for the first time, demonstrated her mountain biking prowess when she produced three wins from three in a clean sweep of the 2017 Cyclezone Winter Series last month. She maintained that hot form to finish first today in 06:12:07, smashing the course record by more than 30 minutes.
"I was really happy, I trained pretty hard for it. It was wicked, there was heaps of climbing, heaps of descending, it was awesome.
"I led from the start and held on, I didn't want to go too hard because I haven't really ridden over five hours before, but I think I paced it pretty good. The weather was pretty good compared to last year, so I feel pretty happy about [beating the course record], but it was all down to the conditions," Wilcox said.
Christchurch veteran Jeanette Gerrie improved on her fourth-place finish last year to take silver in 06:50:52 and fellow Manawatu rider Sarah Haddon finished third in 07:03:30.
For the full results go to www.whaka100.co.nz
Top five finishers in the Whaka 100 endurance race
1st Edwin Crossling 05:21:31
2nd Cosmo Bloor 05:31:08
3rd Jason English 05:31:30
4th Tad Mejdr 05:41:31
5th Tristan Haycock 05:51:10
1st Josie Wilcox 06:12:07
2nd Jeanette Gerrie 06:50:52
3rd Sarah Haddon 07:03:30
4th Hannah Miller 07:19:40
5th Matilda Lawrence 07:33:29