After six stages navigating the Whakarewarewa Forest trails, the men's race in the first round of the Giant 2W Gravity Enduro series could not have finished closer.
Rotorua's Connor Hamilton battled it out with Enduro World Series and Downhill World Cup regular Wyn Masters, of New Plymouth, on Saturday and in the end they could not be split on time alone as both finished with an accumulated time of 21m 3s.
First place was decided by a countback of the two riders' placings in the six stages and it was Masters who came out on top. Rotorua's Daniel Self was third, just five seconds behind the top two and one second ahead of Rotorua's Sam Shaw in fourth.
Masters, famous on Instagram for his "Wheelie Wednesdays", said he did not get to ride in many New Zealand races because he spent much of the year overseas, so it was nice being able to squeeze Saturday's race into his schedule.
"It was a good day out riding, it's pretty early for me to be back racing so it was more just a bit of fun with a good bunch of people," Masters said.
He only did half of the Enduro World Series this year, but still finished 36th overall. He finished 58th in the Downhill World Cup after being held back by injuries. Rotorua will host a round of the Enduro World Series next year, so Saturday's race was an opportunity to get some early practice in.
"It was a bit of early preparation for that. [The closeness of the race] made it pretty exciting, it was pretty much a draw. You can tell it's going to be close because it's pretty hard to pull much time, it was dry so everyone runs a similar speed. You just have to try not to make mistakes and be consistent throughout all the stages.
"Everyone was pretty close in the times. All the locals in Rotorua are always pretty fast and hard to beat.
"It was good to see so many people out there loving it. It's kind of casual, it's still racing, but it's good fun and it ran really well, I thought."
The women's six-stage race was more clear cut with Auckland's Jenna Makgill taking the win in 24m 14s, ahead of Rotorua's Ronja Hill-Wright (24m 59s) and Robin Pieper (25m 58s).
Makgill, a former downhill world cup rider and winner of the Cycle Courier world championships, said she had not done much racing recently so she was pleased to see she could still keep pace.
"I felt really good during the day, the trails were running really well, so I felt really good on them. It's hard to tell [how well you're going during the race], especially because I haven't raced for several years.
"I just tried to take it easy between stages, because I don't know how fit I am, drink water and eat lots."
She also enjoyed the social side of enduro racing.
"What's really nice is you get to chat to lots of random people between stages, it's awesome. The way the enduro works, you're focused on certain sections of the track, but the rest of it's open.
"I've done a lot of different racing styles and this is the most rider-friendly. I spend part of the year in Canada and when I'm there I do miss riding in Rotorua. The trails here are extremely unique in their flow, Canada is a lot rougher and flow isn't a thing.
"Rotorua is extremely unique, which I think comes down to the trail builders and the soil," Makgill said.
Giant 2W Gravity Enduro - Race One Results
1st Wyn Masters 21m 3s
2nd Connor Hamilton 21m 3s
3rd Daniel Self 21m 8s
1st Jenna Makgill 24m 14s
2nd Ronja Hill-Wright 24m 59s
3rd Robin Pieper 25m 58s
1st Liam Jackson 15m 19s
2nd Jacob Levaillant 15m 46s
3rd Craig Pattle 15m 59s
1st Jenna Hastings 17m 18s
2nd Eve Smith 18m 36s
3rd Liv Jackson 19m 30s