Wanaka multisporter-turned-triathlete Braden Currie has won the Ironman 70.3 in Taupo.
Currie, a two-time Coast-to-Coast winner, dominated off the bike to score arguably the best win of his fledgling triathlon career over a quality international field.
Currie held off compatriots Callum Millward and early leader Dylan McNeice to win in 3:51:47.
Meanwhile American superstar Meredith Kessler, a four-time Ironman New Zealand winner, was forced to dig deep to hold off the charge from young local Amelia Watkinson to win the women's title.
Veteran Sam Warriner was fourth in her final professional race.
US-based British athlete Laura Siddall was third ahead of Warriner, the former world No.1 ITU athlete and Ironman New Zealand champion, who brought the curtain down on her stellar career in her new hometown of Taupo.
Currie a surprise champion
Currie, who has his sights set on the Rio Olympics, surprised many with a superb swim, coming out of the 1.9km splash in the crystal clear waters of Lake Taupo fourth in 24 minutes and 33 seconds, just 50s down on leader McNeice.
By the 45km turn at Reporoa, Currie, Millward and McNeice had formed a flying group with fellow Kiwis Matt Franklin and Graham O'Grady, as pre-race favourite Tim van Berkel of Australia fell behind and then crashed and Auckland hope Mark Bowstead punctured.
Currie was first into transition and put the hammer down opening a 51s lead at 5km and 1:06 from Millward at the halfway mark back in the city. He managed to protect his advantage on his way to his first Ironman 70.3 victory.
"I was really happy with that. It was a great win and reasonably unexpected for me," Currie said. "It showed the gains I've made in training and that was really pleasing because I really didn't have a clue how I would go today.
Kessler has enjoyed a stellar season with three Ironman victories and four wins over Ironman 70.3, coming to Taupo after defending her title at Ironman Arizona last month.
She was a minute clear out of the 1.9km swim and maintained that buffer midway on the 90km bike from Warriner, who was ensuring she gave her final professional race everything she could muster.
Warriner closed the margin to 30 seconds going on to the 21.1km run but her challenge faded, eventually finishing fourth.
However Kessler found a new challenge as the 24-year-old Watkinson closed to within 50 seconds with 5km remaining.
"I didn't see her until after the turn at Rainbow Point and I literally had to really sprint it home from there," said Kessler.
"That was by far the toughest race and toughest win this year. I had to use everything in my toolbox to hold Amelia off especially the last 5km."
The race attracted 1200 competitors from 34 countries.