This weekend's New Zealand Mountain Bike Championships in Rotorua are the perfect warm-up for one local rider's first foray into international racing.
Ruby Ryan, 17, will compete for the under-19 title in the New Zealand Cross-Country Championship on Saturday, before hopping on a plane on Monday to race in the US and Australia.
She will be among the favourites for the under-19 title, having finished second to Taupō's Sammie Maxwell at the North Island Cross-Country Championships in February.
"I've done nationals the last couple of years, I've been injured, but this will be a good one to come back with. Growing up I've had a big hip injury that's put me out of sport for a couple of years, I had surgery two years ago and I've been back into it since then," Ruby says.
"I would definitely love to win, I've got pretty tough competition. Sammie Maxwell is a bit of a superstar, but it can be anyone's day. It's really cool having it on home soil, hopefully it works to my advantage, but at the end of the day we're all riding the same tracks.
"I just need to have a consistent race, not blow up at the start and just give it my all."
Ruby comes from an active family. Her brother Lewis is a regular at mountain bike events and has recently switched his focus to Xterra off-road triathlons, and her cousin Sam Bewley is an Olympic medal-winning cyclist. She has tried a number of sports, but lives for cross-country mountain biking.
"I enjoy enduro races that we have here as well, but XC is definitely my main focus. The racing of cross-country is definitely brutal, but I love it. I do enjoy the pain. I've done a little bit of multisport, my family's sort of done everything so i give anything a go, but XC is where the heart is I guess.
"Cross-country is definitely growing, women's numbers are still pretty low but more and more people are starting to do it and hopefully they just get out there and compete."
Next week, in California, Ruby will compete in a short track race before lining up for her first Junior World Series XCO race. She will then fly to Vancouver Island in Canada for another short track race and the second round of the Junior World Series.
On the way home from Canada she will stop in Australia for the Oceania Cross-Country Mountain Bike Championships.
"It is a pretty big block of racing in the next month, the Junior World Series is definitely the big focus. I really want to get more experience and points for, hopefully, future [New Zealand team] selection. The big dream is World Champs in August, any racing I can do before then helps.
"I'm most excited for the new competition, girls I've never really raced before and just the excitement of it all. This is my first trip to race overseas, I've followed my family around racing on the world scene, so it's pretty cool that it's my turn now.
"Me and Lewis do try to fit in training together, it's pretty tough and interesting when we do, but we love it. He's very supportive, but tough on me too.
"They had [Oceanias] in Dunedin last year, that was my first big competition. I got third in under-19, so I was pretty happy with that. This is my last year as a junior."
Ruby said she would not be where she was without the support of her family.
"I want to make a shout out to my grandma, we've had a really tough week, these races coming up are definitely for my grandma and my dad. They've both watched me race every race really."