Middlesbrough triathlete Jack Willis hailed a dream day as he recorded his best-ever World Championship Series result in Sunderland.
Roker Beach welcomed the best triathletes from around the world as well as thousands of amateur participants over a weekend festival of swim, bike, run.
Willis took his chance, finishing 20th on the sport’s top-level circuit just a few miles away from the site of his first-ever triathlon.
“It was awesome,” said the 26-year-old. “I feel like I’ve had this race pinned down since it came on the calendar.
“You don’t normally get the opportunity to race as close to home as this, I did my first ever triathlon a mile down the road from here.
“It’s pretty special and it was nice to see some familiar faces and hear some familiar voices in the crowd.”
The men’s field were bunched together coming out of the chilly 750m swim in the North Sea.
Willis found himself in a pack chasing the 11-strong lead group that featured world champion Léo Bergère, Commonwealth silver medallist Hayden Wilde and British team-mates Barclay Izzard and Max Stapley.
The leaders were caught by the chasers with a lap to go on a technical bike course which meant a chaotic downhill run into transition and onto the final 5km run.
Willis hit the front in an enthusiastic start to the run and despite fading to 20th, came home in 55 minutes and four seconds, cheered to his best-ever WTCS placing by an adoring home crowd.
“It was brilliant,” said Willis. “All the way around I could hear people and it was a really good atmosphere.
“It’s the best World Series I’ve had so I’ll definitely take it. I worked pretty hard on the bike as we were initially in the chase group and managed to work our way to the front with a lap to go.
“It made it a bit dicey come into transition. I got onto the run pretty well and maybe went off a bit too excited and faded a bit on the second lap.
“I’m happy to put in a good performance. I got a bit too excited on the run and they were definitely dragging me forward! I’m really happy with the result.”
“It’s great to be a part of,” said Willis. “You know every British guy who makes the start list is going to be really solid across the board.
“You can follow wheels that you can trust and it’s probably the safest place to be in the group”