Palmerston North's Stuart Houltham and Fiona McDermid rode away to solo wins at the Karapoti Classic in New Zealand last weekend.
Just a week after winning the national title, Houltham made it look easy as he escaped from a collection of New Zealand, Australian and Swiss reps to claim his first win at the Southern Hemisphere's longest running mountain bike event.
The Palmerston North rider followed Aussie favourites Tim Bennett and Nick Both through the early kilometres and up the first climb of the race. The Australians, who ride for the Flight Centre team, have both been runners up at Karapoti in recent years and were trying to dominate from the front.
"I sort of ended up following them early on and waiting to see what would happen," said Houltham.
What happened was that Houltham decided to test the Aussies on the second climb, a tortuous 5km accent up Deadwood Ridge. "I just went hard for a bit to see what would happen," said Houltham. "One stayed with me for a while but I managed to get away from him eventually and from there I was on my own." Houltham stormed away to the third fastest Karapoti clocking ever, in 2.18.59.
In the women's race, McDermid produced perhaps the best ride of her career to win by a massive 16 minutes. The Palmerston North based Brit shrugged off a fall at the start and a flat tyre on Deadwood Ridge, not to mention the previous weekend's New Zealand national title runner up Brenda Clapp. But she finished as frustrated as she was elated when she crossed the line just six seconds short of the race record.
"I couldn't have ridden any harder at any stage in the race," she shrugged after stopping the clock in 2.47.41. "But you can't help but wonder about the fall and the puncture."
On a day that was forecast for gale force winds and torrential rain, the weather gods held off until most of the Scott Karapoti Classic's 1300 participants had finished. This made for fast times among the amateur ranks too, with four new age group records.
See complete coverage of the Karapoti Classic.