Rotorua duo Sam Osborne and Samantha Kingsford have maintained an excellent start to the season with wins at Xterra Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.
Osborne and Kingsford finished in 2h 3m 27s and 2h 27m 26s respectively to claim the elite men's and women's titles.
It was the 11th career Xterra World Tour win for Osborne, his fourth this season, and third in a row on the Pan Am Tour. It's the third career major title for Kingsford, her second this season.
In the men's elite race Osborne led from wire-to-wire after posting the fastest swim, the second-best bike split behind reigning Xterra Pan Am champion Josiah Middaugh, and then the fastest run.
"If you look at the splits it was wire-to-wire but trust me, that one really hurt today," Osborne said.
"I really didn't want to ride with anyone on this technical bike course, so I put the hammer down straight away after the swim and managed to get rid of Karsten [Madsen]. I was riding at my limit the whole time, and just dug really deep on the bike to try to keep away from Josiah."
Middaugh was one minute behind after the swim and then pulled to within about 50 seconds of Osborne heading into the bike-to-run transition.
Osborne saw Middaugh coming in from the bike and said "one minute was not enough of a lead on Josiah".
"He's not a guy you can play tactically with, so I ran on the limit the whole time. My legs felt incredible on the run, probably the best run I put together this year," Osborne says.
Karsten Madsen was the top Canadian in third, with Branden Rakita in fourth and Will Ross in fifth.
"Everyone knows how famous BC is for mountain biking and it was cool to race on those trails. It has been a bucket list place since I was kid to ride here. It's a lot like Rotorua, except there is no rock in Rotorua and there is a ton of rock on this race course.
"Still, no crashes today, and I even nailed some of the pieces I was trying to get right. All in all, this is one of the best courses I've ever raced on. Lots of power climbs, super punchy stuff, and real proper technical riding on the bike."
In the women's elite race, Kingsford was first out of the water, about 30 seconds ahead of Xterra US champion Suzie Snyder and three-time Xterra world champion Melanie McQuaid.
Kingsford held that lead through much of the first of two laps before Snyder caught up and the two traded turns in the front.
"That was tough race," Kingsford said.
"I had a little gap on the swim but I could hear Suzie and Melanie coming on the bike, and Suzie and I rode the whole second lap together. I ended up with just a little gap heading into T2 and took it from there."
Just so much fun and running around the lake, even though it's rooty and rocky, you could get into a rhythm.
Snyder had the best bike split of the day, but not the legs on the run to stay with Kingsford. In the end she finished second, just 38 seconds back.
Kingsford said she loved the course.
"It's got proper single track for mountain biking and it's great to have a two-lap course so you can get to know it pre-riding. Just so much fun and running around the lake, even though it's rooty and rocky, you could get into a rhythm."
With the wins both Osborne and Kingsford jump into the lead in the Xterra Pan Am Tour elite standings after five of 10 events.
The pair now head to Beaver Creek, Colorado, for the next gold event on the tour on July 20.
Xterra Victoria Results
Sam Osborne (NZL) 2h 3m 27s 1, Josiah Middaugh (USA) 2h 5m 47s 2, Karsten Madsen (CAN) 2h 8m 5s 3, Branden Rakita (USA) 2h 8m 21s 4, Will Ross (USA) 2h 16m 13s 5.
Samantha Kingsford (NZL) 2:27:26s 1, Suzie Snyder (USA) 2h 28m 4s 2, Melanie McQuaid (CAN) 2h 35m 18s 3, Julie Baker (USA) 2h 36m 33s 4, Katie Button (CAN) 2h 38m 54s 5.