LAUNCESTON'S Ben Mather had to fight strong East Coast winds and competitor Alex Hunt for his six minute advantage after day 1 of the Freycinet Lodge Challenge yesterday.
A field of 600-plus competitors took part in a 16.6-kilometre run, a shortened 10-kilometre, a 52-kilometre road cycle and 24-kilometre mountain bike on day 1 in the Freycinet National Park.
Event director Tim Saul said Mather finished the four legs in four hours, 22 minutes and 47 seconds - almost six minutes clear of Hunt (4:28:32).
Mather said he had trained hard for the event in the past six month and was looking to push hard today to ensure victory.
``I am pretty happy with my run, but with the mountain bike I probably had very tired legs at the end so my mountain bike wasn't as quick as I'd like.
``But I came away with first place at the end of the day, so I can't complain.
``I always knew it was going to be a good challenge. Alex is a pretty seasoned multi-sport athlete and to keep up with him in the run and the paddle I'm pretty happy.
``You can never be too confident, because you just never know how your body is going to pull up for a second day.
``It is always good to be in a position where you have got a bit of a head start, but that can all be whittled away in one leg if you blow up towards the end.''
Ukraine's Maria Plyashechko was the first woman across the line in 5:35:41 ahead of Hobart's Meghan Johnson (5:57:47).
The fastest men's team was Avanti Plus, who posted an impressive 3:59:24, leaving Smitten Merino almost 40 minutes behind in second.
Today, competitors will endure a 13km kayak, 35km cycle, 24km ride through the bush and finish with a 14km run.
Freycinet Lodge Challenge
WHERE: Coles Bay.
DAY 2 PROGRAM: Race start 7.30am, south end of Richardsons Beach, Leg 1 Coles Bay kayak (13km), Leg 2 road cycle (35km), Leg 3 Freshwater Lagoon MTB (24km), Leg 4 Wineglass Beach run (14km).
MORE DETAILS: www.freycinet challenge.com.au.
View the gallery at examiner.com.au.