When it comes to long distance mountain biking, Tim Rush is building a dynasty.
On Sunday, the Oamaru rider won his second consecutive Whaka100 crown, finishing the gruelling 100km race in 5h 16m 9s.
More than 1300 people took part in the 13 edition of Emerson's Whaka100 presented by CamelBak in the Whakarewarewa Forest. As well as the 100km premier race there were 50km, 25km, 10km and kids' 5.5km races.
Rush finished ahead of Australians Brendan Johnston (5h 16m 16s) and Jon Odams (5h 18m 32s) and said he was both stoked and relieved with the win.
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"It's more of a relief than anything - probably all of the pressure I put on myself with all of these Aussies coming over and The Pioneer coming up. I wanted to be ready and wanted to be in good form to test the legs and see how I'm going.
"I'm stoked with that, I made a few mistakes out there, I fell off and my chain dropped ... but that's riding, you can't really help that.
"It started out pretty hot. Jon, one of the Aussie boys, ripped up the first bit of single track and he was descending really well and I thought that's going to hurt the legs a bit. Then after that we kind of formed a group up the climb and then slowly one by one dropped off."
Rush went over the handlebars and had to catch up to Johnston. It was a battle between the two to the finish line, with Johnston finishing just seven seconds behind Rush.
"The last 5km I just went to the front and every open bit I went full gas trying not to let him get around because you can't get past on that single track."
Johnston said it was a tough day out in the forest.
"I struggled with the single track a bit at the start, just not knowing any of it which made it tough. I was feeling good for most of it, just lights went out toward the end and Tim kind of capitalised that."
In the women's race, Queenstown's Kate Fluker was the first home in 6h 16m 10s. Australia's Karen Hill came in second place (6h 45m 46s) and Christchurch's Rebecca Kingsford was third (6h 47m 13s).
Fluker said it was "an awesome day out".
"You never know what to expect because so much can go wrong on the day but everything went really well.
"I think it was around the 70km mark that I really started to struggle. It felt really close but I knew it was going to be so far. That was when the mental game kicked in and I just had to persevere and get home."
"It was a battle right from the start but it was fun. There are great trails, it's a great race. It's definitely a really good challenge."
Hill said it was her second time taking on the Whaka100 after placing second in 2016.
"It was a battle right from the start but it was fun. There are great trails, it's a great race. It's definitely a really good challenge. Some days you feel good and some days not so good, it's all part of the challenge."
Event director Tim Farmer said there was a good turnout with everyone chilling out in the sun watching the big screen.
"There were cameras set up along the last kilometre so spectators could watch the riders racing to the finish line.
"The racing was pretty epic and the men's race was pretty well contested. Last year's third place Brad Jones pulled out at 19km and then we watched the lead bunch split up and Tim Rush struggle on some of the technical single track but then got to the top of the hill 10km later and they were all back as a bunch. It's probably the kind of racing that is really good for the riders and spectators.
"Pretty stoked that Tim Rush has gone two in a row as well. He has already said he probably won't be back next year so there will be a new winner next year which is also exciting."
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