Rotorua's Sam Osborne says winning the Xterra New Zealand Championships last year was incredible. But, winning it again this year was "unbelievable".
The event, held at Tikitapu (Blue Lake) yesterday, comprised a 1km swim, 26km mountain bike and 11km trail run.
Osborne was first out of the water by a couple of seconds before taking off on the bike and run sections to win in dominant fashion with a time of 2h 4m 3s, more than four minutes ahead of fellow Rotorua athlete Olly Shaw in second.
"A couple of days ago I was feeling a lot of pressure, everyone around town was talking about it. I definitely felt like a target and I knew they'd look to me to do a lot of work on the bike, thankfully not too much on the swim.
"When I got that opportunity early on in the bike and I took it, I though 'this is brilliant', because if they're not sitting on my wheel they're not getting a free ride," Osborne said.
He got the call that he was a minute ahead as he neared the end of the bike and had confidence he could hold the lead on the run.
"You start thinking about a running race and I knew on Tuesday, when I did a session, just how well I was running. I'd back myself to outrun anybody by a minute so I was happy about that. There was no reason for me to panic or push."
It was a special moment for Osborne, crossing the finish line in front of friends and family, in particular his parents.
"I've put in so much work and they've seen how much work I've been putting in. It's incredible to see the fruits of your labour and to have them there to celebrate with me."
Shaw, who went to school with Osborne, said he was "really happy" with his race.
"It definitely wasn't a perfect day out there, but I've had a rough couple of years here and I haven't really raced very well, so to just guts it out and finish second, I was pretty stoked with that.
"My focus really was to just take it as it comes. I wanted a good start to the swim and I had a good first 50m, but then I got kind of pushed out to the side. I came back really strong and my legs felt good early on so I tried to ride consistent but not too hard, I moved from fifth to second on the bike.
"It's awesome to have the one-two of Rotorua locals," he said.
Meanwhile, the women's race also saw a second consecutive win, for British athlete Jacqui Allen. Her husband Ben Allen finished fourth in the men's race.
She finished in 2h 31m 30s, one and a half minutes ahead of Samantha Kingsford.
"I knew someone was close behind, but I had to keep running super hard and it feels great to take the win a second time, it's amazing.
"I tried to swim and ride really hard so maybe I wouldn't have to quite push so hard on the run, but it wasn't to be. The girls were super strong out there and catching which made me run hard all the way.
"[The course is] always amazing here, it's my absolute favourite Xterra event in the world," Allen said.
Xterra New Zealand Championship results
1st Sam Osborne, 2h 4m 3s
2nd Olly Shaw, 2h 8m 50s
3rd Kieran McPherson, 2h 10m 30s
1st Jacqui Allen, 2h 31m 30s
2nd Samantha Kingsford, 2h 33m
3rd Hannah Wells, 2h 34m 24s