Rotorua's Sam Osborne has had an Xterra Tahiti victory snatched from his grasp in the final kilometre.

During the race at the weekend, Osborne knew Mexican former world champion Mauricio Mendez was a speedster in the running leg, so he worked hard to get out in front on the bike. However, in the end it was not enough as he finished second, just 37 seconds behind Mendez.

Even tougher than the field, which also included three-time world number three Ben Allen, of Australia, and French European tour leader Maxim Chane, was the weather.

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"It was most definitely not the typical sunny Tahitian stereotype you'd expect," Osborne said.

"It rained every day we've been here leading up to the race and the mud here is all a clay base so that turns everything incredibly slick. Plus there were six creek crossings which turn into a bit more than just a shallow puddle with this much water.

"Racing in the mud like this is incredibly energy sapping, it takes so much more out of you to get the back wheel to give you any forward movement. It takes some of the raw power and strength out of the ride and makes line choice so much more important.

"It's like racing on a moving carpet, the course changes completely from the first lap to the second, or what you've practised on, and you've got to be able adapt and make good decisions under a lot of pressure."

Sam Osborne encountered plenty of mud on the cycle leg of Xterra Tahiti. Photo / Supplied
Sam Osborne encountered plenty of mud on the cycle leg of Xterra Tahiti. Photo / Supplied

He said all the athletes in the leading back were well aware of Mendez's strength as a runner.

"I had a good feeling through the swim but it was never going to really split and four of us were out together. I saw an opportunity in transition and it was almost a carbon copy play from last year that we pulled on Mauricio. I rode really hard and we managed to drop him off the back.

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"Mauricio's one of the fastest runners in the sport, it's what won him the world champs in 2016, so that gap was a move that needed to happen to win the race.

"On the run it was one of those days where I had no rhythm. I suffered from the first few steps out of transition. I think I battled well and it wasn't until the last kilometre where Mauricio caught me. I tried to kick as soon as he made contact but he kicked back one better than me, he was clearly on a flier to go over the top of that."

Despite the weather, Osborne enjoyed racing in Tahiti and soaking up the support from the locals.

"It's amazing how similar Tahitians are to back home - so hospitable and very passionate out on course, even the language sounds similar to Maori. It'd be the smallest race on the Asian tour but half the island must come out to watch and given the conditions we raced in it was mighty impressive."

Osborne still holds the overall lead in the Xterra Asia-Pacific Tour elite points standings and will be odds-on favourite to take the title after the final race, Xterra Albay in the Philippines on June 17.

Xterra Tahiti Elite results

Men:
1st Mauricio Mendez (MEX) 2h 40m 9s
2nd Sam Osborne (NZL) 2h 40m 46s
3rd Maxim Chane (FRA) 2h 42m 8s

Women:
1st Jacqui Allen (GBR) 3h 12m 15s
2nd Lesley Paterson (GBR) 3h 14m 41s
3rd Penny Slater (AUS) 3h 20m 57s