Rotorua's Sam Osborne has added another chapter to his Xterra New Zealand dynasty.
For the third consecutive year the reigning Xterra Asia-Pacific Series champion made the most of home advantage to win the event, held at Tikitapu (Blue Lake) on Saturday.
Osborne produced the fastest times in the 1km swim, 26km mountain bike and 11km trail run to finish in 2h 2m 36s, shaving one minute and 27 seconds off his winning time last year.
"That was hard. I don't know if it was a smart move to go from the gun but it sure was a painful one. I saw an opportunity early and it's those kind of times you have to commit and just go with it," Osborne said at the finish line.
"At the top of [mountain bike trail] Split Enz, I remembered last year I got to there and was in so much hurt I couldn't even ride down the trail. At least today I was able to I could stand up off the seat and managed a pretty smooth run through there."
He says he felt average at the start of the run and was worried that he had used too much energy on the bike, but "the legs came good".
Olympic triathlete Ryan Sissons, racing his first Xterra event, was second in 2h 4m 30s and Rotorua's Olly Shaw was third in 2h 5m 57s.
Sissons says he was not sure what to expect going into the event but was pleased with his efforts.
"I dropped my chain on one of the down hills so I had to stop and put that back on. I couldn't see Sam anyway, he was gone, there was daylight. Ben [Allen] and I were cruising when my chain came off and then Olly passed me as well. I worked really hard to get back into it."
Shaw is not on the Xterra circuit this year, choosing instead to focus on half-Ironman racing. However, he could not resist entering Xterra New Zealand for the 12th time.
"It was pretty tough out there but I'm pretty happy. I decided last minute to enter, it's the hometown race and I couldn't miss it."
Meanwhile, in the women's race, Jacqui Allen made history when she became the first athlete to win Xterra New Zealand four times - her third consecutively. She finished in 2h 29m 42s ahead of Penny Slater (2h 29m 58s), who she coaches, and Samantha Kingsford (2h 38m 42s).
Allen, who was visibly emotional about the achievement, says she learned her lessons from Xterra Taiwan last weekend where she finished second to Slater.
"I had to play it a little bit more tactically and knew she'd be close behind. I just rode my own race - I actually prefer to race on my own, not with someone breathing down my neck. I rode my own bike course because I knew the run was one that really suited me.
"When Penny caught me on the run the race was on and we went together as long as we could. I thought I went a little bit too early, I went on the downhill section and I seemed to have got a gap so I had to run really hard for about 2km rather than 500m, but I'm really happy with my race.
"I'm absolutely thrilled to come back. To win three of these in a row - when I started out, I never thought I'd be that kind of athlete and I'm really proud of myself today in the way that I handled the pressure and the way that I raced."
Slater says if she is going to finish second to anyone, she prefers it is Allen.
"I didn't have a great swim and didn't think I'd be able to catch Jacqui on the bike because I know she does really well on this course. I saw her towards the end of the bike and we rode in together, but I knew I might be in trouble if I got on to the run with her because she always runs really well here.
"She is my coach and my friend, so I couldn't think of anyone I'd rather have beat me if someone's going to do it. She's worked so hard over summer, as have I, and we're just really excited that we can put on a really good show."
Xterra Rotorua Results
1st Sam Osborne (2h 2m 36s)
2nd Ryan Sissons (2h 4m 30s)
3rd Olly Shaw (2h 5m 57s)
1st Jacqui Allen (2h 29m 42s)
2nd Penny Slater (2h 29m 58s)
3rd Samantha Kingsford (2h 38m 42s)