International sport's loss has become the Whaka100's gain as athletes normally competing internationally flocked to race in Rotorua.
Usually, there is a wide range of Rotorua athletes competing in their chosen disciplines all over the world but for many, the Covid-19 pandemic has put a halt to their international events forcing them to eye New Zealand competitions.
The 2020 edition of the Whaka100 100km mountain bike marathon attracted one of the strongest fields to date, including champion triathletes and Olympians.
One of those athletes was Xterra Pan-America Tour champion Sam Osborne, of Rotorua, who finished third in the Whaka100 in 4:43:50, behind defending champion Tim Rush in second (4:43:50).
The field was blitzed by convincing winner Ben Oliver (4h 35m 59s) who finished fourth in the cross country mountain bike race at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
"I'm actually really happy. There's been no international racing, everyone is stuck in New Zealand, so the quality of the field is just unreal here," Osborne said.
"I've raced Rushy a couple of times, we had him at the Pioneer and I was on the receiving end of a lot of pain for a whole week there so I'm well aware of how good he is.
"I've had a really good training block and obviously focused on this a bit with not much else going on. I was just really happy to be able to mix it with Rushy and as the race went on I was trying to back myself and have a crack.
"It came down to a sprint which I lost so apparently that's something I need to work on, Osborne said.
He said it was "amazing" to be back racing after a year filled with disappointment and cancellations.
"When you've had it taken away from you like this, that's when you realise how much you genuinely do love racing."
Another Rotorua local Sam Shaw, who would usually be travelling through Europe competing in the Enduro World Series, finished fourth in 4h 46m 31s and said it was just exciting to be back racing after a quiet winter.
"It was a big day out on the bike, I probably blew up at about 60km and then relied on good nutrition to get me back to the end. My mindset was I felt like I had [done enough training] and then I got to that 60km mark and thought maybe I could've done more."
The competition was just as electric in the women's field as 2005 Halberg New Zealand Sportswoman of the Year Kate McIlroy made her presence felt, winning in 5h 37m 43s ahead of Xterra Asia Pacific champion Samantha Kingsford (5h 44m 11s). In third was Alison Wilson (5h 57m 4s) who was second in the 2020 Coast to Coast earlier this year.
McIlroy is no stranger to success, having won the World Mountain Running Championships in 2005 and becoming the first woman to go under four hours at the Taupō Road Race in 2016.