An unexpected downpour made for wet and slippery conditions during the Summer Cup and those who embraced the conditions prevailed.
On Saturday, the men's long course was won by an international visitor, Ollie Lowthorpe of Jersey, who is training for the Commonwealth Games. The small island of Jersey, between France and England, does not offer a lot for mountain bikers so he has based his pre-games training in Rotorua. He finished the 40km race in 1h 37m 10s, nine seconds ahead of Cosmo Bloor.
"I've only been here two weeks, so still getting used to the conditions and getting over the jet lag. The course is awesome compared to where I'm from, it's by far the best place I've been for cross-country, it's amazing here.
"I didn't know what the competition would be like, but I made a bit of an attack. Just before the final big climb I got caught by Cosmo, he was definitely faster up the hills and on the descent I managed to just get back in front, we had quite a good battle going on," Lowthorpe said.
The women's long course race was won by Sammie Maxwell, affectionately known as "super Sammie", of Taupo in a time of 1h 52m 11s. She said the race was a good way to test herself ahead of the Oceania MTB Championships in Dunedin next weekend.
"It was such a good race to get into the mode of things and Rotorua is such a good place to mountain bike. I like the wet terrain, downhill is more my advantage over the other competitors - I'm not a massive girl, I don't have a lot of power, so when it's like this I try and take advantage.
"Coming into the race season I'm feeling pretty fit, my races aren't usually this long so it was good to push it a bit and feel good towards the end. When I was little you'd see those fast girls winning the long course - to be one of them is cool," Maxwell said.
The second woman to finish the long course was Tauranga's Sarah Backler, an accomplished multisport athlete, in 2h 2m 53s. The wet conditions were a real shock to the system for Backler after competing in the Red Bull Defiance multisport race in the scorching heat of Wanaka two weeks ago.
"I ate the forest and it got in my eyes. I haven't been on the trails for a long time, so I was probably a bit of a wimp on some of the corners and stuff. Whereas Sarah [Haddon], who almost caught me, she was nailing the muddy downhill stuff.
"After doing Red Bull Defiance I probably didn't have quite the right head space for most of this, but it was good that Sarah caught me at the end - I got my head together and it was a nice little battle to finish it off," Backler said.
Haddon, who finished third in 2h 2m 54s, said she loved the wet conditions. Haddon is from Manawatu, rides for the Taupo Mountain Bike Club and is studying in Auckland.
"I actually love the mud because it tends to slow a lot of people down, it's perfect conditions for me. It was really cool because I didn't know how close Sarah [Backler] was - she was stronger in the hills and I'm not too shabby on the downs, I just couldn't quite get her at the end there," she said.
There were also 15km, 25km and 40km E bike races for a variety of different age groups, with the majority of riders finishing covered in mud but smiling. For full results go to summercup.co.nz
Summer Cup long course results
1st - Ollie Lowthorpe, 1h 37m 10s
2nd - Cosmo Bloor, 1h 37m 19s
3rd - Shanan Whitlock, 1h 44m 10s
1st - Sammie Maxwell, 1h 52m 11s
2nd - Sarah Backler, 2h 2m 53s
3rd - Sarah Haddon, 2h 2m 54s