National MTB champs
Queenstown's Kate Fluker withstood the charge from London Olympian and defending champion Karen Hanlen to take on the elite women's honours on a testing course in the stunning Whakarewarewa Forest today.
Meanwhile, 18-year-old Waikato rider Sam Gaze upset pundits to claim the elite men's title.
The Te Awamutu rider out-sprinted defending champion and former junior world champion Anton Cooper to claim the title in a thrilling race.
The cross country championship kick-started the 10-day Rotorua Bike Festival that features a plethora of events including mountain bike, BMX and road cycling.
The elite men's race was expected to be dominated by super-talented young riders led by Cooper, 19, Rotorua's Dirk Peters, 22 and Gaze.
Cooper, the Cannondale professional, pushed hard from the start with a withering 14min 25sec opening lap of the 5.6km circuit as the trio stretched the elastic to the rest of the field on the first of six laps.
By lap four Peters has lost touch as Cooper and Gaze pushed on, with the Te Awamutu rider, last year's Oceania junior champion, holding on and then managing to out-sprint Cooper to the final corner and hold on for the victory with the pair given the same time.
"It's unbelieveable. It's my first year out of Under-19s and so I didn't know what to expect," Gaze said. "As the race went on I felt stronger and could not believe I was able to match it with Anton.
"The result is incredible and really exciting. Anton and Dirk are world class riders and that helps get the best out of me.
"This has given me real confidence now for my first big campaign on to the World Cup and I really want to push for a spot in the Commonwealth Games team."
Cooper, building for a big season in Europe with his eye on the world championships and the Commonwealth Games, pushed from the front to break his challengers.
"I just don't think I had the legs today. It was a tough, tough race, Cooper said. "I just couldn't quite drop them. I was putting little gaps into them on some of the climbs, but they'd just sneak it back.
I let Sam lead down the final straight hoping I'd come round him. I almost got it but he closed me out and full credit to him."
Fluker, who enjoyed a strong first season on the World Cup circuit last year, made an emphatic start to the women's race, opening up a telling lead of more than a minute on the field.
Hanlen, who had considered retiring after today's race, re-found her form to push through the field, closing the gap to seconds going into the final lap.
However Fluker held on to claim her first national elite title, as the relative newcomer eyes this as a confidence boost towards her international aspirations.
"I am so excited for my first national title. I'm so new to the sport that I know I have a lot more to give," Fluker said.
"This has given me confidence as I look to head to the World Cup circuit. I'd love to make the team for the Commonwealth Games. The key will be to find enough back to get to Europe for the World Cup to get the results I need."
Hanlen was far from disappointed with second place, and will now reconsider retirement plans to chase a birth for Glasgow.
"For two years now I've been plagued with being unable to get on the pace in the first lap. Just this week it's been finally diagnosed that I have asthma and already with a few days medication I felt so much better.
"Good luck for Kate, she was fantastic today and deserved to win. But this has given me the boost to stay in the sport and give it everything - that means the Oceania Championships, World Cup and hopefully Commonwealth Games."
Peters and Palmerston North's Fiona Macdermid rounded out the podium for the men and women respectively, while North Canterbury's Ben Oliver and Auckland's Harriet Beaven took out the under-19 titles.
Tomorrow is the turn of the gravity riders in the downhill championships on the famed Taniwha National course.
Elite: Sam Gaze (Te Awamutu) 1:32:30, 1; Anton Cooper (North Canterbury, Cannondale Factory Team) same time, 2; Dirk Peters (Rotorua) 1:33:29 3; Carl Jones (Rotorua) 1:36:35, 4; Sam Shaw (Rotorua) 1:38:39, 5.
Under 19: Ben Oliver (North Canterbury) 1:21:16, 1; Gareth Cannon (Woodville) 1:22:06, 2; David Ashby-Coventry (Timaru) 1:22:22, 3; Nathan Johnston (Rotorua) 1:24:42, 4; Jack Compton (Porirua) 1:25:34, 5.
Under-17: Eden Cruise (Porirua) 1:06:13, 1; Robert Stannard (Palmerston North) 1:08:05, 2; Paul Wright (Wanaka) 1:09:20, 3; Lewis Ryan (Rotorua) 1:10:27, 4; Harry Phipps (Rotorua) 1:11:39, 5.
Under-15: Connor Johnston (Rotorua) 54:54, 1; Julius Staufenberg (Wanaka) 1:01.34, 2; Dylan Simpson (Palmerston North) 1:02:44, 3; Flynn Fierro (Taupo) 1:04:37, 4; Lachlan Haycock (Tauranga) 1:08:40, 5.
Master 1: Ben Robson (Rotorua) 1:10:02, 1; Gavin McCarthy (Upper Hutt) 1:11:13, 2; Darryl Stevens (New Plymouth) 1:13:28, 3; Mansour Youssef (Wellington) 1:15:31, 4; Ben Somerton (Palmerston North) 1:17:55, 5.
Masters 2: Chris Gaze (Te Awamutu) 1:12:33, 1; Carl Johnson (Fairlie) 1:14:00, 2; Mike Metz (Rotorua) 1:16:06, 3; Ray Hope (Dunedin) 1:18:43, 4; Brendon Trower (Napier) 1:23:17, 5.
Masters 3: Ian Paintin (Wellington) 1:15:47, 1; Peter Calnan (Rotorua) 1:18:32, 2; Paul McDowell (Rotorua) 1:19:03, 3; Gary Moller (Wellington) 1:19:04, 4; Anthony Bradshaw (Wellington) 1:19:14, 5.
Elite: Kate Fluker (Queenstown) 1:31:56, 1; Karen Hanlen (Whakatane) 1:32:38, 2; Fiona Macdermid (Palmerston North) 1:36:11, 3; Katherine O'Neill (Rotorua) 1:37:52, 4; Amber Johnston (Rotorua) 1:38:41, 5.
Under-19: Harriet Beaven (Auckland) 1:20:11, 1; Jemma Manchester (Auckland) 1:23:10, 2; Shannon Hope (Dunedin) 1:26:34, 3; Olivia Miller (Nelson) 1:27:29, 4; Charlotte Rayner (Auckland) 1:28:36, 5.
Under-15: Phoebe Young (Wanaka) 46:19, 1; Paige Weir (Auckland) 53:40, 2; Ruby Ryan (Rotorua) 57:57, 3; Quinn Robinson (Otorohanga) 1:04:38, 4; Georgia Skelton (Auckland) 1:08:33, 5.
Under-17: Kaylee Mudgway (Tauranga) 1:127:50, 1; Aleisha Ferguson (Hamilton) 1:17:52, 2.
Masters 1: Philippa Rostan (Australia) 1:07:39, 1; Bex Houston (Upper Hutt) 1:13:08, 2; Sarah Natac (Auckland) 1:18:25, 3.
Masters 2: Greta Donaldson (Taupo) 1:05:19, 1.
Masters 3: Sarah Beadel (Rotorua) 1:11:24, 1.
Moonshine Trail MTB and off-road running race
Today's overcast weather provided ideal conditions for people of all ages who took on the eighth annual Moonshine trail at Dolamore Park near Gore.
More than 350 people took to one of the challenges that was on offer during this years event.
A 30km, 39km and 42km mountainbike course were the bike options along with a 15km run and 5km walk or run.
Sport Southland Eastern Southland community sports advisor Harley Ware said they had received a really good turn out on the day after online entries had closed earlier in the week.
Following downpours of rain, mountainbikers and runners crossed the finish line covered in mud but still full of smiles.
''We have a huge amount of supporters who come back each year, and they all come back for different reasons,'' Ware said.
Edendale school principal David McKenzie was one of many to take to the running track along with his son Josh.
McKenzie was competing in his first Moonshine Trail but had enjoyed the experience.
''It's good to challenge yourself... I will probably do it again, but at this time I'm resting,'' he said.
The event is the second of three run by Sport Southland, which included the Surf to City which had run last weekend and the Wai Tri which would be held next month.
Brendan Akeroyd and Kath Kelly claimed victory in the men's and women's 42km event, which included the torturous Ship's Cone hill climb.
Junior rider Will Sutherland and Ronel Cook won the 39km ride.
Former Olympian Matt Randall won the 15km run.
Cycling - Gore to Waikiwi Classic
Forty-nine riders lined up in calm, dry and mild conditions in Gore but it wasn't long before they hit drizzle and a head wind in Mataura during the 78km 2014 George Wilson and Sons Gore to Waikiwi Classic.
There was a 35 minute gap from limit to a very strong scratch mark (Cam Karwowski, Luke Macpherson, Rob Huisman, Josh Haggerty, Nick Kergozou).
The course turned right just after Mataura onto the Glencoe Highway, then headed to Spring Hills, Rakahouka, Grove Bush, Lorneville Dacre Highway, Mill Road, and then McIvor Road, finishing just outside Anderson's Park.
A very strong third break bunch caught all the front markers, and held off second break, break and scratch to take the spoils.
Gabby Vermunt attacked coming into McIvor Road and was caught with a couple of hundred metres to go, Sequoia Cooper taking the bunch kick.
1 Sequoia Cooper 2:08:58 (off 14 minute mark (3rd Break)
2 Bruce Jones (14 minute mark)
3 Kirstie James (10 min mark (3rd Limit)
4 Grant Colbran (10 min mark )
5 Laura Fairweather (14 min mark )
6 Erin Criglington (6 min mark (2nd Limit)
7 Dave Simpson (10 min mark)
8 Michael Matheson (0 min - Limit)
1st Junior (U19): Frances Smith (0m)
Fastest Woman: Sequoia Cooper
2nd Fastest Woman: Laura Fairweather
Fastest Junior (U19): Nick Kergozou (35 min - Scratch
Fastest Time: Cam Karwowski (35 min)
2nd Fastest Time: Josh Haggerty (35 min)
The Junior (U17 and below) Division 1 and 2 riders started at Hedgehope, and also rode a handicap race over 40km.
The back markers cleared their way through the field, Hamish Keast (an U15 rider) the only one able to hang on.
It was impossible to separate Hayden Strong and Tom Sexton at the finish, and they were given first equal, with Brayden Stephens very close behind for third and Hamish Keast fourth.
Division 3 started at Rakahouka Church over 20km.
Madeline Gough took the win from younger brother Hunter, with Hamish Turnbull third.
The sight and sound of a 1994 Formula 1 Ferrari 412 T1B 043 V12 was a highlight for motorsport fans on the first day of the Evolution Motorsport Classic SpeedFest at Teretonga Park today.
The car, brought to New Zealand by a group of Ferrari enthusiasts headed by Steve Weeber of Christchurch, did several demonstration laps with Robert Borrius Broek at the wheel. On display alongside it in the pits was a 3 seater F1 Arrows AX3 belonging to the same group.
Meanwhile. the racing was of a high standard throughout all the classes.
Brendan Mason, of Invercargill, won the first clash in the Professionals Real Estate Classic Saloons (2501cc & over) when his Chev Camaro outdragged race leader Brent Collins of Timaru in a Buick V6 powered 4.5 litre Mazda RX7 on the run to the finish line to win by .019 of a second with Canadian Jack Ondrack third in his TVR Tuscan.
Collins won the start in the second race but pulled off at the first corner leaving Mason and Ondrack to have a great scrap at the front with Mason prevailing, this time by .174 of a second from Ondrack with Steve Scoles, of Outram, third in his Camaro.
Chris Chiles, of Christchurch, won both the Southern Paints Class races for smaller saloons in his Lotus Elan.
V8 SuperTourer star Angus Fogg finished second in the opener in his Mini Cooper S with Robbie Halliday of Mangawhai third in his Lotus Cortina.
Fogg did not finish the next race leaving Halliday second and Tuatapere driver Doug Erskine third in his Mini.
Gary Johnstone, of Christchurch, in a Jaguar XJS won the exciting opening race in the Jesco Historic Touring Car class beating the similar car of Aucklander Angus Fogg by just .250 of a second with Tony Forde of Invercargill third in a Holden Commodore just .094 behind Fogg.
In the Macaulay Ford Formula Libre class Steve Ross, of Dunedin, used the superior power of his Formula 5000 McRae GM1 to chase down Invercargill driver Jamie Conroy in a Formula Renault after a brief visit to the pits to win the first race with John Williams of Christchurch third in a Crossle.
Conroy was a non starter in the second due to gearbox problems as Ross powered through the field to win from the Reynards of Doug Price, of Christchurch, and Dave McKenzie, of Invercargill.
The Noel McIntyre Drainage Clubmans Saloon race went to Brent Collins in the Buick powered RX7 followed by the Chev Corvette of Dunedin's Brian Scott and Brendan Mason in his Camaro.
Jack Ondrack romped away to win the first Southland Tyre Centre Sports Car race in his TVR Tuscan while the main interest centred on John Osborne, of Christchurch, in his Nissan 300ZX Coupe as he hunted down Chris Chiles in his Lotus Elan for second.
Chiles led early in the second contest while Osborne and Ondrack disputed second place but the group closed up to produce a great finish, Ondrack crossing the line just ahead of Osborne and Chiles.
Paul Coghill, of Dunedin, in a Jaguar Special won both Sievwright Auto's Vintage Racing Car Class races today, the first from Paul Coory of Mosgiel in a Chevrolet CAE with Russ Haines of Ashburton third in his Frangepelli Holden and the second narrowly from Haines after a great battle, the margin just .336 of a second.
Rob Boult, of Queenstown, (Edelbrock Special) was third.
The action continues tomorrow at 9am.
The Southland Times