NICK North won his sixth straight Carroll-Scott Memorial Triathlon on Sunday, but as he lay on his back after crossing the finish line and tried to catch his breath, it was clear just how hard he had to work for it.
Josh Stapley had pushed him all the way in the Bathurst Wallabies Triathlon Club season finale, the victory not sealed until the final meters of the run leg.
In the end North stopped the clock for the 300 metres swim, 16 kilometre cycle, 2.5km run event in 36 minutes, 50 seconds.
Stapley, who also laid on his back after crossing the line, finished 16 seconds later.
"I've never beaten him in this race, I always come second. I think I have about four or five seconds in this race, I think it's four because I missed out one year," Stapley said.
"It's always close, because it's over the short course everything is so tight, it's hard to get away from anyone in the race. It always seems to come down to a sprint finish."
North, who now has seven overall wins in the memorial event, was neck-and-neck with Stapley from the get go.
The pair quickly gapped their rivals in the swim, North leading the way while Stapley followed his feet.
North clocked a 3.42 split, two seconds quicker than Stapley, but the pair headed out on the cycle leg together.
Both were conscious of trying to open up a gap over Mark Windsor, a man who has been in good form over the short course distance this season.
"I regret going so hard in that swim, but I knew we had to get a bit of a gap on Mark because of his riding and he is just running so unbelievably well at the moment," North said.
"Even then we lost a fair bit of time on the bike. We did not expect to see him coming into transition when we were going out."
As North mentioned, Windsor did make up ground on the leading duo over the cycle leg.
Stapley clocked a 23.22 split as he lead the way into final transition just ahead of North, but Windsor pulled back just under a minute on them.
Windsor was unable to catch that pair in the run, eventually finishing third in 38.03.
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It meant it came down to a sprint finish between North and Stapley.
While Stapley tried to shake North he couldn't and in the final metres the latter summoned one final burst of speed to get the nod.
"He tried a couple of surges and I think if he tried one more he might of had me. I didn't have enough in my legs to try a surge up the hill," North admitted.
"It's an unreal way to finish the season."
Though Stapley was unable to break through for his first win in the memorial, he certainly enjoyed the contest.
"Last time we had a race like that he went at the hill, so I was ready for that. I thought that surely he'd go on the hill but he didn't, he just sat there," he said.
"I was just hoping to bring it down to the car park, I thought if I could do that then I'd be good. I think I've won three sprint finishes in club races against Mark, Nick and Dean Windsor, all freakish finishers.
"I always went at the same spot and got it, but Nick went too early today and I wasn't able to go with him. It was a smart move from Nick."
Jack Reen (39.31) and Tom Hanrahan (42.27) rounded out the top five.