When Josh Garrett won the marquee solo-run Triple Peaks crown three years ago it had mutated to a three-time loop of the Te Mata Peak circuit in Hastings amid concerns over flooding rivers.
That had prompted the organisers to abort the Mt Erin and Mt Kahuranaki legs of the multisport event in 2017.
Consequently Garrett found a sense of closure when he tamed the three peaks in 4h 44m 42.43s in Havelock North on Saturday.
"It was a perfect morning for it and the organisers did a great job of putting it together so it's always a pleasure coming back," said the 31-year-old of Napier after making the most of pristine conditions during the annual MCL Construction-sponsored event over 55km.
Garrett had crossed the finish line at the village green comfortably ahead of former Hawke's Bay competitor, Kristian Day, who now runs in the colours of Wellington Scottish. Day had clocked 5:07:53.43 to finish 23m 11s behind the winner. Chris Bower was the third-placed male at 5:34:41.34.
However, Garrett wasn't sure if he would enter in the three-peak solo run event next year.
"Oh, we'll have to wait and see. I'm wondering about mountain biking so you never know," he said, revealing it was more a lean towards a different challenge.
The Waihi-born ultra endurance athlete had moved to Napier in November 2016 to work for Pan Pac as a mechanical engineer. He had clocked 3h 29m 04s after four training runs for the 2017 Triple Peaks marquee solo event.
Garrett hadn't raced against Day before and was a little disappointed Nick Johnston, of Feilding, didn't return to defend his title and keep him honest but confident isn't a word he'd use to describe his success.
"But I sort of knew it was going to be a tough day regardless."
A multisporter who has a penchant for ultra marathons, Garret said the annual Air New Zealand Hawke's Bay Marathon hadn't been on his list because he preferred off-road events.
"The off-road ones tend to be easier on the body and the knees and all those things."
Garrett had found the course different but felt it was, overall, made slicker for the mountain bikers who they had caught along the track in previous years.
"There was a bit more climbing for us so it made it a bit more run-able so it's always a good course."
A chuckling Garrett was pleasantly surprised to discover he had won $1000 in prizemoney but hadn't make any decisions on how he was going to spend it.
Day's wife, Ruby Muir, not only clinched the female bragging rights but was the third-placed runner overall in a time of 5:12:21.97.
The 28-year-old — born and raised in satellite community of Whenaukite, between Tairua and Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula — finished ahead of Wendy Calcinai, of Whanganui. Muir and Day had lived here for several years before the Napier Harriers couple shifted to the capital city.
The former NZ crosscountry winner is a two-time champion of the internationally recognised Tarawera Ultramarathon (2013, 2015) and a six-time Kepler Challenge queen. She had reportedly clinched the 2013 The Otter African Trail Run in South Africa.
However, the following year Muir picked up an injury while running the Ultra Du Mont Blanc in France. That had prompted to run shorter races. In 2015 she had won the Wellington Marathon.
Teenager Charlie Tattersfield upstaged everyone in the three peaks solo mountain biking race in his maiden entry.
The 16-year-old clocked 3h 3m 26.61s to beat fellow Napier rival Ben Earnshaw by 5m 49.67s as the pair had battled it out towards the finish line.
"I'm pretty excited and happy," said Tattersfield after simply turning up with the attitude of "riding hard" in a field of more than 100.
"I was trying to get it done between three hours and 3:15, which was my main goal," said the former Napier Boys' High School student who plans to compete as a road cyclist in Belgium from May.
Tattersfield, who helps the Hawke's Bay Events Trust with traffic management, found the Triple Peaks course hard on account of steep climbs.
"The Mt Kahuranaki was by far the hardest," he said. "It wasn't until I was coming down Te Mata Peak when I saw Ben coming up when I knew I kind of had it in the bag."
Remarkably Tattersfield only took up competitive riding about two years ago on his road bike.
"I just tacked it up myself, really," he explained. "I just decided I liked riding my bike."
Tattersfield receives huge support from his parents, Lynda, an office administrator at Napier Girls' High School, and Greg, a veterinarian who moved to the Bay from Gisborne in 2017.
Earnshaw echoed his sentiments on a demanding course.
"They had a few changes this year and it definitely made it a lot faster course," said the 35-year-old electrician who was competing in his 10th Triple Peaks MTB race and had won it in 2011 in a shade over three hours.
Earnshaw welcomed the changes but wasn't disappointed in coming runner-up.
"I'm 15 to 20 years older than most of the others in the field so you have to be pretty realistic with your goals," he said with a laugh.
He said event co-directors organisers Richard Mills and Emma Buttle, representing the Bennelong Mountain Bike Club, had done a fantastic job of the 32-year-old event.
Max Williams, of Hastings, was third in a time of 3h 9m 17.06s.
Grandfather Alywn McIntyre, who had walked the length of the country, won the solo walk race for his treble of three peaks titles. Tania Gardner was the first female equivalent.
A delighted Buttle said they were fortunate to enjoy ideal weather and a low river to enable people to tame the full course.
"That, combined with a fantastic army of 80 volunteers and a sponsor family of 35 companies, has ensured a fantastic outcome of the event," she said as it lured more than 625 athletes. Many were out-of-towners and some from as far as Australia and New Caledonia.
In thanking the entrants, Buttle said congratulated those who got a share of the $7000 prizemoney on offer.
"The pointy end of the field was pretty competitive," she said.