Orienteers and pro elite mountain bikers shared the spoils at the New Zealand MTB Orienteering (MTB-O) Championships in Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua over the weekend of 14th and 15th November.
With a national elite Sprint orienteering title and top 20 finishes at Junior World Orienteering Championships to his name, former Nationally ranked junior MTB'er Thomas Reynolds (Auckland) looked to be unbeatable over the two shorter races.
And so it was - Reynolds won the 19km Middle distance race on the dry and fast trails of "Whaka park" in 55 minutes, a solid 5 minutes ahead of Taranaki MTB'er Brent Simpson and Christchurch orienteer Greig Hamilton.
But Reynolds was then forced to pick up the pace in the 6.5 km Sprint race with Oceania Sprint Orienteering Champion Jamie Stewart(Wellington) threatening to race away with a win should Reynolds falter.
The pressure was fierce and by the halfway point Stewart had close to a 40 second lead over Reynolds.
A moments inattention and loss of map contact by Stewart at the 8th control was all that Reynolds needed to regain the lead and charge home for his second MTB-O title ahead of Stewart by 1 minute 47 seconds, with NZ representative orienteer Greg Flynn (Auckland) a close 14 seconds behind for third.
Former World number one ranked MTB-Orienteer Marquita Gelderman had a comfortable win in the Middle distance, riding in 5 minutes ahead of rogainer and adventure racer Kath Copland, and Christine Browne.
Gelderman proved to be unbeatable over all three distances at the Nationals, relegating fellow NZ representative Kath Copland to second place each time as well as defeating all the veteran men who raced the same course, and other NZ MTB-O reps such as Angela Eccles.
The big race of the weekend was the 30 km Long distance race (23km for the Women), crisscrossing the Park several times.
While Reynolds was honouring a prior commitment to race the Toi's Challenge at Whakatane, Mark 'Cabin' Leishman stepped up to the mapboard to make his debut at MTB Orienteering, against orienteers Stewart, Flynn, and Hamilton.
But it was fellow pro elite rider and Triple peaks winner Andrew Bott of Hawkes Bay who took the challenge to the in-form Leishman (who also picked up his best ever World Cup results this year as well as winning the 2009 Karapoti Challenge).
After a storming start on the first leg from the carpark to 'Split Enz' - a 21 minute uphill 5km leg with 300 metres of climb - Leishman held the lead from Bott until the 4th control where '"local knowledge was probably a bit of a disadvantage" for Leishman and he lost a crucial 4 minutes searching for the checkpoint 200 metres along the ridge.
Bott, after a cautious start and unaware of his lead (orienteering races have staggered starts to eliminate following), picked up the pace and stayed mistake-free to take fastest leg splits on all but two of the remaining nine legs, finishing in just over 87 minutes.
Determined riding from Leishman, particularly on the downhills, saw him gradually pull back Bott's lead to less than three minutes - until a second navigational error at the penultimate checkpoint.
With no previous orienteering experience to fall back on, Leishman lost around seven minutes overshooting the checkpoint and circling back, and was in danger of losing second place to a fast finishing Stewart.
Bott has the benefit of orienteering training with Hawkes Bay Orienteering Club, and experience representing New Zealand against Australia, winning the NSW MTB-O Champs in 2007.
He won by 11 minutes from Leishman, but it was nonetheless an impressive debut from 'Cabin', who was a minute clear of NZ orienteering representative Jamie Stewart.
Multisporters also featured in the veteran classes with Vivienne Prince taking out all three races in the womens 50 class, while Phil White took two wins in mens 40, as did specialist MTB orienteer Dave King in mens 50.
Adventure racer Erin Roberts was just out of the open womens placings, coming in 4th in the Middle and Long distance races, while her flatmate Brent Edwards was also placing 4th at the same time - at the World Adventure Racing Champs with team Orion Health.
Results: New Zealand MTB-Orienteering Champs, Whakarewarewa Forest, Rotorua.
Sprint Distance: Open Men
1 Thomas Reynolds 23:17,
2 Jamie Stewart 25:04,
3 Greg Flynn 25:18.
Sprint Distance: Open Women
1 Marquita Gelderman 24:19,
2 Kath Copland 27:27,
3 Claire Paterson 28:38.
Middle Distance: Open Men
1 Thomas Reynolds 55:03,
2 Brent Simpson 1:00:42,
3 Greig Hamilton 1:01:24.
Middle Distance: Open Women
1 Marquita Gelderman 49:59,
2 Kath Copland 54:28,
3 Christine Browne 57:23.
Long Distance: Open Men
1 Andrew Bott 1:27:05,
2 Mark Leishman 1:38:15,
3 Jamie Stewart 1:39:29.
Long Distance: Open Women
1 Marquita Gelderman 1:15:31,
2 Kath Copland 1:20:54,
3 Angela Pratt 1:27:11.