Thames rider Natasha Cairns (KTM 150XC-W), a female making history as the leading rider in the A Grade (intermediate) this year, as well as claiming the Top Trail Rider trophy winner in the separate women's class.
It was a groundbreaking performance from Thames rider Natasha Cairns in the enduro nationals this season.
From the second of five rounds in the Alpinestars-sponsored 2018 New Zealand Enduro Championships, the 32-year-old has turned heads as she led the way in the A Grade competition (formerly known as the Intermediate Grade), and on Sunday it was finally time for her to step up and accept the silverware.
The series came to a thrilling conclusion with back-to-back rounds four and five at the weekend – in the Santoft Forest, near Bulls, on Saturday, followed by the final round on farmland near Martinborough on Sunday – and Cairns knew, if she could maintain her momentum, she was on target to win the grade and become the first female in New Zealand history to claim an enduro title in a grade that is not gender-specific.
She took her KTM150XC-W to finish the A Grade ahead of Masterton's Sam Callaghan and Putaruru's Phil Skinner, in the process claiming the Top Trail Rider trophy for winning the separate battle-within-the-battle for women's class honours.
"It has been a number of times now that I've finished runner-up in the intermediate grade, but I've never won it before," said Cairns, a sales assistant at a building company.
"It's been a lot of hard work to get here. I've been riding the bike every week and training after work, but it's all been about being consistent this year."
She finished with a 2-3-2-2-3 score-card for the five rounds this season.
"I fell off and drowned my bike in a river at Martinborough and I thought it was all over for me. But I ended up not losing any time. (Fellow competitor) Jeff Van Hout stopped and helped me out. I'm grateful for that."
Meanwhile, Taupo's Brad Groombridge won the premier AA Grade (formerly called Expert Grade) title, finishing the series ahead of Wainuiomata rider Jake Whitaker.
Helensville's Tom Buxton had led the AA Grade after winning both the opening two rounds of the nationals, but the KTM rider was enticed away to compete overseas and therefore missed the remainder of the domestic series.
In terms of class honours, Groombridge won the combined under-200cc two-stroke class and under-300cc four-stroke class this season, while Whitaker won the over-200cc two-stroke class.
Whitaker is a record eight-time national champion in the parallel but different moto trials code and only converted to enduro racing a few years ago, but he took his KTM300XC to solid finishes this season, his best result a runner-up finish to Groombridge at round three near Nelson last month.
Other class winners in the AA Grade this season were Paeroa's Chris Power (over-300cc four-stroke class) and Hamilton's Phil Singleton (veterans', over-40 years' class).
In the class battles within the A Grade, Sam Callaghan won the under-300cc and under-200cc two-stroke class; Havelock North's Tom Hislop won the over-300cc and over-200cc two-stroke class; Skinner won the Veterans 2 (50-54 years') class; Auckland's Jeff Van Hout won the Veterans 3 (over-55 years') class and Masterton's George Callaghan won the Veterans 4 (40-49 years') class.