Graham O'Grady continued his winning start to the summer with his third victory in quick succession at the Contact Tri Series Rotorua race today and world age-group champion Rachel Hamill upstaged her younger competitors to win the women's race.
The race also featured the return to triathlon of former world champion Sam Warriner in her first race since the birth of her first child. Warriner did the swim and run legs in the team's competition and combined with Janine Sax to win the sprint race category.
O'Grady has been in imperious form this year, winning the Tinman race and the Taupo Half Ironman in successive weeks and today simply ran away from the opposition. Sam Osborne finished in second.
"I have enjoyed two good weeks before this, but was a little nervous after the Taupo Half last week,'' O'Grady said. "Sometimes that can take a bit out of your legs. Training is going really well. 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's nice to have a good lead on the run. You can stay relaxed and I think that is the key to running well. The course suited me today as well, 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 Terenzo Bozzone and Bevan Docherty in some of the upcoming half ironman and 70.3 races. O'Grady is targeting Tauranga Auckland in January.
Hamill is the world champion in the 40-44 age group after winning October's Barfoot and Thompson Auckland world championships and finished ahead of 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,'' Hamill said. "I am racing in a few other Contact Tri Series events so don't really have a big race goal this summer.''
Waikato's Mikayla Nielsen, the 2011 world junior champion, suffered mechanical problems and couldn't threaten the leaders. The 18-year-old had a puncture before the race, had another two punctures during the bike leg and actually ran her bike the final 2km to transition.
Warriner enjoyed a busy day, both as athlete and coach, as she returns to the sport after becoming a mother.
"I am aiming to get back into top shape and form and race again for New Zealand, for sure,'' the 41-year-old 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 3-4 years of top racing from here.''