Olympian Peter Latham won a bunch sprint in brilliant fashion to claim the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge today.
It also gave the Te Awamutu rider his first win in the BikeNZ national point series, edging out Gordon McCauley and series leader Jeremy Yates in a frantic sprint.
The two elite races were part of the annual cycle challenge that attracted more than 10,500 participants.
Latham's win marked an outstanding return for the 2005 Taupo winner, who recovered from a broken back 18 months ago that threatened his career.
"This is a big win for me. I am really thrilled," Latham said.
"I probably tried to come back a bit early after breaking my back and I am only now starting to feel like I am back to full fitness again.
"Even at the Olympics I still was not at my best but this is a good win in a really strong field."
A bunch of 25 riders with all the major players broke away early in the race and remained clear over the main climb at Kuratau and into Turangi.
It split shortly after with a group of nine easing clear including defending champion MacCauley, Yates, Latham, Hawkes Bay's Jeremy Vennell, Auckland's Aaron Strong, Manawatu's Tim Findlay and Olympic rower Hamish Bond from Cambridge.
Vennell, a noted climber, edged ahead up the final climb at Hautepe but was hauled back in before Strong made a move.
Bond, who is enjoying his time as a cyclist since Beijing, led coming into the home straight in Tongariro St before MacCauley and Yates made their moves before both were caught by Latham on the line.
Latham won in three hours 43 minutes 27 seconds, taking nearly 2min off his race record with an average speed of 43km/h.
He was half a wheel ahead of 2007 winner MacCauley with Yates third, retaining his lead in the national points series.
Latham, 24, faces a busy year after being picked up by US professional Team Bissell, run by New Zealander Glen Mitchell, as well as a full track programme as part of the BikeNZ pursuit team.
Earlier fellow-Beijing Olympian Catherine Cheatley won the women's 40-minute criterium event around the streets of Taupo from Marina Dujnvak and Rachel Mercer with fourth-placed Serena Sheridan of Nelson holding her lead in the national series.
"It was good to get back into racing again and fantastic to race out in front of all these people on such a superb day," Cheatley said.
Cheatley won two of the four sprints, with the others going to Duvnjak and Mercer.
Former Wanganui rider Cheatley, now based in Southland, is back into training before she joins up with a new professional team in USA next year, Colavita Sutterhome.