A quality field of mostly young athletes started the traditional Surfbreaker sprint triathlon at Mount Maunganui's main beach yesterday but it was 40-year-old Michael Pugh who took out the men's title in some style.
The Tauranga athlete was fourth after both the swim and cycling legs of the Eves Realty-sponsored event but he ran a great final leg to go past second-placed Rob Creasy from Taranaki and Gisborne's young rising star Tayler Reid to win in 48 minutes, 42 seconds.
The run ended with the final 400 metres across soft sand but Pugh proved to be too strong coming home and gave the good-sized crowd watching an indication of the form he showed to win the 40-44 age group at the World Triathlon championships in Auckland in October.
Pugh's performance is even more remarkable because he has struggled in training since that outstanding achievement.
"I was very apprehensive because my legs have just been dead in light training since the worlds, and then when I saw the surf I was even more apprehensive," said Pugh.
"But it was not too bad. I did one somersault in the way in due to my inept body surfing but I was actually second round the first buoy but I got lost a bit in the waves on the way home.
"The bike ride was good and I managed to hold Rob [Creasy] off who is a very good cyclist, and I just kept the rhythm going so I would have something left for the run.
"I like to keep the young guys honest."
Anneke Jenkins from Tauranga continued her remarkable rise up the triathlon rankings by taking home the women's title in a time of 51m 24s.
At this same event last year the former nationally ranked swimmer entered her first triathlon and she came a highly creditable 10th in the 20-24 age group at the World Triathlon series in Auckland.
Next year the 23-year-old is going to Germany to fast track her triathlon skills.
"I am going to race for a German team in our winter," said Jenkins.
"It was a goal with my coach Brendon Downey and me so I approached the team and asked if I could race with them. I am going to get some race experience and train all summer long."
Jenkins was second after the swim and bike legs behind Nicole van der Kaay but she managed to pass her coming home to take the title.
"The last bit on the sand was really hard. It was like you're going backwards," Jenkins said.
Nicole van der Kaay finished second behind Jenkins with last year's winner Mikayla Nielsen third.
The duathlon competitors were spared a swim in the rough surf and at the end of the 2km run, 18km cycle and 5km run stages, Papamoa's Mike Brechelt was the clear winner from Dylan Lee and George Vice, with Sharon Ducker the first woman home.
There was a notable homecoming for 13-year-old Jeremy Shore in the boys super sprint category.
The former Tauranga Intermediate student won by 11 minutes and is now training fulltime in Perth, where he has made the West Australia state triathlon team.
The cyclone-infused turbulent surf during the past few days meant organiser Sheryl McLay from Team Shorebreak had to amend the M-shaped swim leg to a more conservative pathway, but four swimmers still needed to be plucked out of the water by the Mount surf lifesavers.