Graham O'Grady from Kinloch continued a stunning start to the summer of triathlon with his third victory in quick succession at the Contact Tri Series Rotorua race on Saturday.
World age group champion Rachel Hamill (Waikato) upstaged her younger competitors to win the women's Contact Trophy race.
Another feature of the day was a return to triathlon for former world champion Sam Warriner in her first triathlon outing since the birth of her first child. Warriner swam and ran in a team effort, coming across the line in first place in the sprint race category with Tauranga athlete Janine Sax.
O'Grady has been in imperious form this year, winning the Craigs Investment Tinman race and the Taupo Half Ironman in successive weeks, and the 30-year-old simply ran away from the opposition, leaving Sam Osborne behind in second place.
"I have enjoyed two good weeks before this, but was a little nervous after the Taupo Half last week, sometimes that can take a bit out of your legs," said O'Grady.
"Training is going really well though, I am fit and strong and that showed. I went well today, I pushed from the start and got a good lead on the bike.
"It is nice to have a good lead on the run, you can stay relaxed and I think the key to running well is staying relaxed. The course suited me today as well, [being] based in Kinloch now, so the hills were no issue."
The win and his form this season marks O'Grady as a genuine threat to the likes of Bozzone and Docherty in some of the Half and 70.3 races coming up over the summer, with O'Grady himself targeting Tauranga and Auckland in January.
"Earlier this year I was injured," said O'Grady. "I started low key with Xterra here in April, that gave me some confidence and then I headed off to the States and raced a few half ironman races and struggled in the heat.
"I came home and slogged it out through the winter though and thanks to the work my coach Keegan Williams has me doing, I am in great shape.
"I seem to slip under the radar a little with the media but that is fine by me.
"I will just keep doing the hard work and getting the results but I am confident going into the big races this summer for sure."
Women's winner Hamill was delighted with her day.
The world champion in the 40 to 44 age group, from the Auckland World Champs in October, has only been in the sport a short while and finished ahead of former winner Maddy Brunton and Tamsyn Hayes.
"I have really only been racing for a year in triathlon so this is all new to me but I am delighted with that today," said Hamill.
"I am racing in a few other Contact Tri Series events so don't really have a big race goal this summer.
2011 world junior champion Mikayla Nielsen (Waikato) could not challenge on the day, thanks largely to mechanical issues. The 18-year-old has just been selected for the Australian Youth Olympic Festival next January.
"I had a puncture before the race started and thanks to some help from my sister we got that changed but then I punctured twice in the race," said Nielsen.
"The first time I was able to get a replacement wheel but then near the end I punctured again and had to run the bike in the last couple of kilometres.
"But I still had a good workout and am happy with where I am at for this early in the season."
Warriner enjoyed a busy day, both as athlete and coach with a number of her SWEAT7 athletes racing well, including Jamie Leader who won the Contact Sprint women's race.
The 41-year-old Warriner swam and ran her team into first place in the sprint race.
"I am aiming to get back into top shape and form and race again for New Zealand for sure" she said.
"It is only early days for me and I certainly don't have any speed at the moment, that is what this is about, getting some speed back into the legs.
"But I certainly feel stronger since having the baby and I reckon on three or four years of top racing from here."
The day was a stunner, with the Blue Lake an amazing backdrop for more than 1000 athletes in all events, including the popular Rotorua Half. The weather was warm and largely still, with just a few wind gusts in the late morning causing minor concern.
One of the most popular finishers was Jenni McGowan.
The Rotorua local was taking part in her first triathlon just two years after having both hips replaced. McGowan has suffered since childhood from arthritis and while nervous about her day, she finished the beginners 3:9:3 with a smile on her face and cheers from her supporters.
"I only had a few worries - that I might drown, that I might get knocked off my bike and that I might fall over on the run," she quipped.
"This is the first time though that I have been pain free since I was a young child. I have lived with the pain of arthritis and was in Starship Hospital for operations on my hips at age 13.
"So I guess you can say I have faced challenges all my life so why not take this one on."
The next round of the Contact Tri Series is in Whangamata on January 3 with entries open online at www.triseries.co.nz
Contact Tri Series, Rotorua:
Contact Trophy (1500m swim, 40km bike, 11km run)
1 Graham O'Grady 2:08:08
2 Sam Osborne
3 Andrew Lloyd
1 Rachel Hamill 2:29:12
2 Maddy Brunton
3 Tamsyn Hayes
Contact Sprint (750m swim, 20km bike, 5.5km run)
1 Dan Hoy 1:10:02
2 Kyle Smith
3 Michael Peree
1 Jamie Leader 1:16:03
2 Stephie Holcroft
3 Ashleigh Williams