Welcome to Rotorua, New Zealand. The home of some of the best mountain biking in the world, the country's fastest racers, and arguably one of the best downhill tracks on the North Island. In the last few days leading up to Round 3, the country has been ravished by yet another big weather system so it has been all hands on deck getting the track up to scratch in the last few days.
As per usual, Dave Hamilton and his team of volunteers from Descend Rotorua rallied hard to pull off the final North Island stop of the series, and leave riders with a taste of what they can expect come the launch of the new Crankworx Rotorua event, the Rotorua Open. It has been a long three years since a national series event last graced the trails of the Whakarewarewa Forest, but riders dove back into it like they had never gone away.
It doesn't take a betting man to put money on the hometown kid, Keegan Wright, to pull off a win here. But with Brook MacDonald looking to give his new factory ride a pre-season break-in, he wasn't about to let Keegan have it easy.
The man to beat today, Keegan Wright.
Without further ado, riders hustled to get loaded up and see what goodies awaited them on track.
With the full eight rounds of the Enduro World Series ahead of them, John Richardson and Daniel Self pedalled up while the others shuttled to get those k's in.
Sam Robbie looked to be comfortable on track this morning, sliding around in the morning dew, but luck wasn't on his side today.
With intermittent heat showers passing through, with it came little pockets of mist and lite rain. Annoying for the riders, great for the photographers.
Daniel Gannaway was charging in that sick morning light.
It has been no secret that women's numbers have been lacking thus far this season, but thankfully Rotorua is home to a lot of fast women who couldn't resist throwing a leg over a big bike this weekend.
Out of semi-retirement came Jack Fisher, for a special outing to race bikes on a special track.
With Sam out of action, Cole had to hold down things for Team Wide Open.
Brook and that new Mondraker looked to be a dangerous combo
The track presented riders with plenty of opportunities to pull up and get well out of shape today.
Including this precarious little huck over two sets of very greasy roots.
Brook, of course, made it look like nothing.
Doing it for the dads, Nick Skeates blitzed masters 2 (40+) again, putting 12 seconds into second place.
Guy Johnston crashed out last weekend, so was hungry for redemption today.
With this being Finn Parson's home track, it came as a surprise when Blake Ross stormed to 1st place today in U17
If his seeding time was anything go by, then Charlie Makea should have placed in the top two today. Unfortunately, he had a crash in his race run and will need to race hard come round four in Christchurch if he wants to fight for the overall.
Patrick Hale ran off track not far below this point but rode it out and will have to try again at the final round for the elusive podium step.
Josh Oxenham slowed things down to a controllable level today and put five seconds into second place in U19.
Shania Rawson still isn't back to full health, but couldn't resist racing on her home track.
It only took three rounds, but finally Kate had some competition today. She did, however, dominate regardless, going 3 for 3 with only one round left.
Daniel Self was charging from start to finish today. He seeded first in Open Men's but crashed out in his race run
Gryff Tomos mixed it in up in the Open Men's category on his trail bike today, and was riding several of the more technical sections cleaner than those on big rigs.
Jack Fisher seeded dead last after having a break halfway through his run, but pulled out a surprise 5th place in open men's, despite not having raced for well over a year.
Lloyd Jenks is one of the men responsible for maintenance on this track, so was of little surprise to see him step onto the Open Men's podium today in 3rd place.
Some might call it luck, I will call it daylight robbery. Once again, Carson Rayner took top honours in the hotly contested Open Men's, making it 3 for 3.
Doing it for the enduro boys out there. Sam Shaw, jack of all trades, sent it hard in the Elite field.
Brendan Regan was ripping and tearing all day but crashed within sight of the line and DNF'd. A few x-rays to go, but looks to be another wrist related injury.
After Brendan Regan crashed on-course and caused the track to get red flagged, Kyle Lockwood was one of a few guys to have to do a re-run. Unfortunately for Kyle, he laid down everything he had the first time around, so the second chance didn't work in his favour.
The Dangerous Duo of Liam and Peter Bethell struck again. Peter claimed the last step today, but Liam is bitting at his heels in 6th.
The Dark Horse, regardless of the venue or conditions. Peter Bethell bettered his seeding position for 5th in Elite Men today.
Guy Gibbs was quietly going about his business once again today and round to another podium finish.
Keegan Wright seeded first today, but that would only have fuelled the others fire even more for their race runs. When it came down to laying it down when it counted, Keegan didn't have enough answers and had to settle for 3rd today.
Cole Lucas turned that 3rd place seeding into a 2nd place result after hunting down an extra five seconds like Brook.
The Bulldog sinking turns deep in the jungle
Brook looked to be back to his old ways; charging everything. He even found an extra five seconds in his race run to put him well in front.
A few casualties after a big day of racing
It has been a hectic three weeks of back to back racing, but now we take a short break until Oceania champs in three week's time. Until then...
Elite Men's Podium
Elite Women's Podium
1st - Brook MacDonald ( 3:02.66)
2nd - Cole Lucas ( 3:05.54 )
3rd - Keegan Wright ( 3:05.70 )
4th - Guy Gibbs ( 3:10.92)
5th - Peter Bethell ( 3:11.90 )
1st - Kate Weatherly ( 3:32.31 )
2nd - Shania Rawson ( 4:07.11 )
3rd - Cati Pearson ( 4:36.62 )
Full results to follow.