It was all about clean runs at the opening day of the Urge 3 Peaks Enduro held in Dunedin, New Zealand, today, and very few riders had one.
More than 200 riders started from the Bull Pen this morning, but in the end it was Anton Cooper who stepped to the front in the men's and Rosara Joseph in the women's.
"I had two good clean runs," offers race leader Anton Cooper (below). "Stage two started a bit sketchy – I had a few dabs here and there up the top and clipped the banks a bit, but nothing that cost me time."
The 2014 Commonwealth Games Cross-Country gold medalist said he had a good day on the bike and was hoping for more of the same tomorrow when the event moved to Signal Hill.
"The Signal Hill tracks are short and gnarly," he laughs. "I'm just hoping to keep it smooth and hopefully the conditions won't deteriorate overnight – a wet track will change the game."
After three of the five stages, Cooper sits in first just 21 seconds ahead of Jimmy Pollard with Leighton Kirk, Sam Shaw and Conor Macfarlane rounding out the top five in the men's.
In the women's Rosara Joseph proved once again why she is consistently in the top 10 of the Enduro World Series winning all three stages today and pulling out to a massive 1 minute 41 second lead over Natalie Jakobs.
"I felt a bit uncoordinated today actually," she laughs. "The first two stages I was all over the place, but pulled it together for the final stage of the day."
Joseph slipped off the side of the track on the second stage and went over the bars, but recovered to push on. Most racers experienced at least a handful of crashes in the slippery conditions. But tomorrow could be worse with rain in the forecast for the infamous tracks of Signal Hill.
"The Signal Hill stages are awesome – I practised them yesterday," shares Joseph. "But they are going to be intense if it's wet – it will be very challenging."
Rising World Cup XC racer Kate Fluker, of Queenstown, said the courses were quite technical. She went over the handlebars in the dreaded steps on the Mt Cargill stage, but luckily wasn't injured.
"Each stage was different so I really enjoyed the riding today," she smiles. "I don't know what to think about tomorrow. I'm quite scared. I think in the wet it's going to be a bum shuffle. It's going to be freaky. My downhill skills are my weakness – I love hillclimbing, but I'm going to have fun."
Among the international riders Aussie Oli Kristevic saw a different side of the Dunedin terrain in his second campaign at the Urge 3 Peaks Enduro.
"The big difference is that it is wet and I really didn't understand that the substrate here is clay-based so when it gets wet it gets very, very slippery," he grins. "I spent the first two tracks trying to reign in my exuberance to go fast. After the first two I finally worked it out and stayed upright for the final stage."
Kristevic buckled his front wheel on a set of stairs in the first stage and had to bash the wheel true on the side of the track so it could turn through his fork and allow him to complete the race. He finished day one seventh equal in his class tied on points with his Aussie travelling mate James "Cannonball" Hall.
Leading the Junior men category after the first day of racing, Alexis Riviere, of France, said the tracks required complete commitment and he liked the Mt Cargill stage best.
"I race all of the season in France and I'm loving spending my time in the summer season in New Zealand," he said. "The second stage was really quite difficult for me today, but tomorrow's going to be crazy. Just to stay on the bike it's going to be good for me."
Race organiser Tom Bradshaw said the first day was a real success.
"The weather played the game, the riders loved the courses – especially the new stage we built – and everything worked perfectly. It will be all on for tomorrow," he laughs, looking up at the ominous cloud bank overhead.
Stage 4 and 5 take place at Signal Hill, Dunedin, with first riders leaving the start chute at 10am NZST.www.boxoflight.com