Cycling New Zealand has named a 25-strong team to contest the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Canada next month and Rotorua is well represented.
From August 28 to September 1, six Rotorua riders will be among those battling it out in cross-country and downhill disciplines at the famed ski and mountain bike resort of Mont-Sainte-Anne in eastern Canada.
Connor Johnston and Ruby Ryan will race in the under-19 cross-country, Matt Walker and Keegan Wright in the elite downhill, and Tuhoto-Ariki Pene and Finn Parsons in the junior downhill.
Taupō's Sammie Maxwell will also compete in the under-19 women's cross-country.
Ryan, who along with Maxwell is in the world's top-20 ranked junior female riders, raced in Junior World Series XCO races in America, Canada and Japan - experience she said would be valuable during the world championships. Picking up a win in Japan was a confidence boost but she remained realistic about her chances.
"Any day, you can have the legs or you can't. With this sort of racing you're always going to feel like you've done enough training but you can never feel too confident because it comes down to how you feel on the day."
She has had her struggles with injury in the past and much of her focus during rehab and training was on making the cut for these world championships.
"I've wanted this for almost two years so it doesn't really feel real that I've achieved it.
"I'm flying into the United States and then driving up to world champs. On the way I'll be training and there are a couple of club races on the way so I can get some racing in before the shock of the worlds competition.
"I expect it to be the hardest race I've ever done, definitely. It'll be fast and just really intense."
Rotorua's Mark Leishman coaches Ryan as well as Auckland's Matthew Wilson, who is also competing in the under-19 cross-country, and said regardless of results the world championships would be a crucial learning experience for the young riders.
"It's huge, you can't beat it. Some people look at it as maybe you shouldn't be racing at that level until you've proven something but for a junior going to the world champs is your light bulb moment.
"No matter how good you are, when you go there you're going to get a massive reality check on what happens at the top of the sport. For a huge percentage of them, that lights the fire.
"It's a cliche and easier said than done but they really just need to relax and enjoy the experience - focus on doing their best on the day."
Leishman said Ryan's willingness to push through the pain barrier on the bike would hold her in good stead. Having seen the work she had put in to get into this position, Leishman was very pleased for her.
"She has a willingness to hurt herself mentally. When people talk about mental toughness it has all sorts of different connotations but she's willing and able to push herself pretty far.
"She has maybe second guessed herself a few times, she was sick before nationals but those international races have given her the confidence that she belongs at that level. It's awesome to see the just reward for efforts put in.
"It'll still be a little bit mind-blowing at world champs, it always is, especially the first time you get there. Nothing can really compare to pulling on the New Zealand kit that you've earned."
New Zealand team for Mountain Bike World Championships:
Cross-Country, Elite Male:
Anton Cooper (North Canterbury, Trek Factory), Sam Gaze (Cambridge, Specialized), Ben Oliver (North Canterbury, Subway Hub).
Cross-Country Under-19 Male: Connor Johnston (Rotorua), Caleb Bottcher (Palmerston North), Matthew Wilson (Auckland).
Cross-Country Under-19 Female: Sammie Maxwell (Taupō), Ruby Ryan (Rotorua).
Downhill, Elite Male: Sam Blenkinsop (Christchurch, Norco Factory), George Brannigan (Hawke's Bay, GT Factory), Brook MacDonald (Hawke's Bay, MS Mondraker Team), Ed Masters (New Plymouth, Pivot Factory), Wyn Masters (New Plymouth, GT Factory), Matt Walker (Rotorua, Pivot Factory), Keegan Wright (Rotorua).
Downhill, Elite Female: Kate Weatherly (Auckland), Virginia Armstrong (Auckland). Junior: Fiona Murray (Wanaka).
Downhill, Junior Male: Alex Barke (Queenstown, Subway Performance Hub), Sam Gale (Queenstown, Subway Performance Hub), Finn Hawkesby-Brown (Christchurch), Finn Parsons (Rotorua), Blake Ross (Auckland, Subway Performance Hub), Tuhoto-Ariki Pene (Rotorua, Subway Performance Hub), Louis Vuleta (Cambridge).
Unavailable due to injury: Samara Sheppard, Bryn Dickerson.