A three-year quest for vengeance today culminated in emphatic fashion as Sam Clark defended his Coast to Coast longest day title.
Clark completed a come-from-behind victory over three-time champion Braden Currie in the 243km race across the South Island, crossing the finish line at New Brighton, Christchurch more than seven minutes ahead of his rival.
After trailing by 12 minutes at the start at the penultimate leg, an incredible effort on the kayak brought Clark to within four minutes of Currie, eventually taking the lead with about 30km remaining on the final bike leg.
Clark won his first longest day title last year but, given Currie skipped the race, the victory rang a little hollow. So with Currie back and looking to revive his stranglehold on the event, Clark couldn't contain his emotions after defeating the man he has long been chasing.
"He's the man to beat," an elated Clark exclaimed moments after finishing in a time of 11 hours 2 minutes and 43 seconds. "He kicks my arse at every triathlon I do, and two years ago he beat me by the skin of my teeth [in the longest day].
"It's been a three-year mission or vendetta to get not just get a victory but a real victory against world-class competition."
After setting off on the West Coast both Clark and Currie were part of a nine-strong group that reached the first transition together, before the favourites took command. Clark fell about 17 minutes behind Currie midway through the 30km mountain run leg but steadily stalked his foe on the 67km kayak, edging ahead while biking across the Canterbury Plains.
"It's not over until it's over," Clark said. "I just dug deeper than I've ever dug before, passed him and never looked back - except for about half a dozen times."