New Zealand's Bevan Docherty defied a recent heavy workload to finish second in the rich seventh round of the International Triathlon Union World Cup at Des Moines in Iowa this morning (NZ team).
World No 4 Docherty picked up a healthy US$40,000 ($53,669) pay cheque in the most lucrative race in World Cup history when he crossed the line 30 seconds behind Danish winner Rasmus Henning.
With the focus for the New Zealand athletes on Olympic qualifying at the Beijing World Cup race in September, Docherty, Kris Gemmell, Shane Reed and Terrenzo Bozzone were not favoured against the strongest field assembled this year.
But all featured strongly, with Gemmell the best-placed New Zealander out of the swim in 15th place and eventually finishing in that position.
Reed was one place behind him and Bozzone 24th.
Docherty led a large second group on the cycling leg which hauled in a group of leaders to create a lead pack of 31.
However, Henning made a crucial break 10km from the finish, forging a one minute lead.
Docherty and Spaniard Javier Gomez led the chase but couldn't haul in the Dane, instead battling intensely for second.
"I am speechless to think I have gone so well and really pleased to have finished on the podium -- albeit I am a little surprised given my focus is really on Beijing in September," Docherty said.
"I am a long way off peaking but training has gone well in Boulder and today saw the result of some of the hard work I have been putting in.
"A great indication of where I am at though is the fact I ran with and out-kicked Javier because he is quite simply where it is at with regards running off the bike at the moment."
The temperature for the men's race had dropped from the extremely difficult conditions the women endured.
New Zealanders Sam Warriner and Debbie Tanner both struggled in the heat to finish off the pace.
T hey exited the water over a minute behind the lead bunch and struggled to close the gap from there, with Tanner eventually climbing to ninth and Warriner three places behind her.
The race was won by American Laura Bennett, who held off Australian Annabel Luxford by 14 seconds.
Tanner defied humid 36degC temperatures to pick off a number of athletes on the run leg, with many forced to withdraw. She was two minutes 16 seconds behind Bennett.
"Today was really all about survival in some of the toughest conditions I have experienced," Tanner said.
"It was obvious early on in the bike that this was going to be a battle of attrition. We worked really hard on the bike and caught the chase group but couldn't close the gap on the leaders."
Warriner was never in contention on the run and like Tanner, was concerned about finishing in reasonable physical shape.
"The finish line is a little like a hospital scene with girls on drips and being attended to," she said.
Warriner won the Vancouver leg of the ITU series last weekend.
A third New Zealander in the field, Evelyn Williamson, struggled throughout and finished 22nd.