THREE years after quitting triathlon because his passion ran dry, Brian McLeod's smile returned on his face as he captured one of the biggest wins of his career yesterday.
The newest Hervey Bay 100 champion, who has only attempted one triathlon - a 750m swim, 20km cycle and 5km run - since switching from triathlon to cycling in 2009, blitzed the field to complete the arduous 100km event in a time of 3hr 43min 42sec - more than 10 minutes ahead of his closest rival, Ben Wriede.
"This was my first crack at a long- course tri and I'm pretty happy with how I went," the 22-year-old said.
Almost 350 competitors took part in the toughest endurance event on the Fraser Coast, an epic that featured soaring heat and choppy waters making it even tougher for competitors.
The former Australian junior representative handled the 2km swim, 80km bike ride and 18km run skilfully, taking the lead in the swim then used his cycling experience to pull away from his opponents.
"On the bike I rode strong and kept the pressure on," the Rockhampton product, said.
"But I still rode within myself because I wanted to put the whole race together.
"I didn't want to blow it with 6km to go on the run, so it was a solid race."
McLeod, who trains at Lennox Head with renowned coach Grant Giles, has targeted the Ironman 70.3 series race in Auckland in January before heading to the United States in May.
"I've never put a long course triathlon together so to do that regardless of the result to start with, I can draw a lot of confidence from that," he said.
"I want to make it as a professional and make a career out of it."
But will McLeod be back next year to defend his title?
"I will definitely try to make this an annual race to do," he said.
"This is the first time I have been to Hervey Bay and there is a good atmosphere here.
"I'm not saying it is bigger than Mooloolaba and Noosa, but it has got the same vibe and has the potential to grow and become something like that."
In the women's event, Noosa Heads' Jessica Fleming used a blistering run to hit the line in 4:15.49 ahead of Susan Langley (4:17.56) and Kirra Seidel (4:19.48).