Jason Christie has won the men's road race at the New Zealand Road Cycling Championships for a second time in three years.
Ashburton rider Christie outsprinted three other riders in Napier on Sunday, including World Tour star George Bennett.
Waikato's Hayden McCormick finished second, with Taranaki's Michael Torckler completing the podium and Nelson rider Bennett having to settle for fourth.
Although he missed out on victory and the podium, Bennett's effort was still impressive given it was just two weeks since surgery he hopes will fix a chronic side-stich issue he has battled his entire career.
Before Sunday's race, Bennett said he had no idea how he would perform.
Along with winning the race in 2016, Christie was second last year and has now finished in the top four the past five years.
He also finished third in Friday's time-trial, despite a heavy crash.
"It's amazing really. I did not think I would have a chance today. But I rode smart and put myself in a position to win," Christie said.
"I think it was probably the best field ever for these championships and so to win it is pretty special.
"I was quite sore after that fall in the time trial and never felt that great early on but just rode smart which was the key today."
In order to reclaim the national champions jersey, 27-year-old Christie had to work hard with Bennett and McCormick to bridge a gap to Torckler in the latter stages of the 177km race.
Torckler broke off the front of the lead group with 30km remaining and established a decent advantage, before Bennett eventually made his move and found company in Christie and McCormick.
But Torckler, the winner of the gruelling stage up Coronet Peak at the Tour of Southland two months ago, had his lead cut to just 22 seconds over the top of the final climb up Hospital Hill and was caught not long after, with just 4km left.
Knowing he was not one of the stronger sprinters in the four-pronged group as the stormed towards the finish, Bennett made an attempt to get away on the last significant uphill portion of the course.
However, the Lotto NL-Jumbo rider was unable to do so and Christie was always going to be favoured as a sprint finish loomed.
Christie made his move shortly after the final turn, around 500m from the finish, and crossed the line with a clear gap to McCormick, Torckler and Bennett.
"I changed my mind as the race went on and I felt quite good. I thought I had a chance," Bennett said.
"I thought Michael (Torckler) had gone too hard up the climb and thought I had a chance. But it was not to be as the young boys had the legs.
"However I had no issues with stitch at all and it is so early in the season for me. There's a lot to be satisfied with from today."
The under-23 title was won by James Fouche, who finished second in that classification last year.