Despite leading the whole way, it wasn't until he entered the finishing chute in the ITU Cross-Triathlon World Championship race that Lewis Ryan entertained the thought of winning.

Cross-triathlon is the off-road version of triathlon racing, comprising a 1.5km open water swim, 31km mountain bike and 8km trail run.

Ryan finished the swim leg of the race, held in Penticton, Canada last week, a minute ahead of the next amateur competitor and never looked back, finishing almost six minutes ahead of his nearest male rival.

He finished just nine minutes behind the winner of the elite race.

"The race was awesome - I mean it's obviously brutally tough but the whole day just seemed to flow perfectly," Ryan said.

"I've been working particularly hard in the pool with Swim Rotorua recently and that paid dividends during the swim leg - I was able to swim a nice smooth rhythm and open up a good gap on the rest of the field.

"It was a dream start to the race that allowed me to relax a little bit on the mountain bike so I could settle into my work. It's a funny feeling to be riding on your own, you're always second guessing yourself. There's no one to gauge your speed off so I just tried to keep my effort level consistent and relatively relaxed."

When he transitioned to the run a spectator told him he was leading by six minutes, but he did not allow himself to relax.

"I knew the calibre of runners in the group behind me and that they'd be hustling to catch back up. But, fortunately I still had plenty of juice in the body so was lucky enough to be able to set a pace that meant I shouldn't blow up and hopefully wouldn't be caught.

"It wasn't really until I turned into the finish chute to run down the final stretch of blue carpet that I entertained the thought of winning the race. It's a pretty surreal feeling actually. Leading a race from the gun and being able to finish it off at the line," he said.

PACE SETTER: Lewis Ryan leads the way during the run at the ITU Cross-Triathlon World Championships. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
PACE SETTER: Lewis Ryan leads the way during the run at the ITU Cross-Triathlon World Championships. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

What made the win particularly pleasing for Ryan was the calibre of athletes he beat.

"Everyone on the start line has earned their place via qualification. It's the World Championships so this is where all the best athletes come to prove themselves and the field was full of high-calibre athletes.

"When you look down the results sheet there are 10 guys who beat me in prestigious races last year, so to take the overall amateur win is a great feeling and I'm totally stoked to have achieved it."

He said Rotorua was an ideal place to train for the sport.

"Growing up in Rotovegas, you're surrounded by this ultimate kind of adventure playground. We grow up swimming in the lakes, riding world class trails in the Whaka forest and running around at school so it's kind of a natural progression I guess.

"I got into mountain bike racing with a good group of close friends and after doing the mountain bike race at Xterra Rotorua one year, I decided to join Dad on the start line of the individual triathlon race the next year.

"I was 15 then and really when I look back on it, I had no idea what I was doing. My preparation for that first race included four practice swims in a borrowed surfing wetsuit, heaps of riding with mates and the odd run when the weather was too wet to ride."

His 2017 adventures have just begun as he will be overseas competing until November.

"In this time I'll be travelling throughout Canada and the States before coming home via Hawaii.

"I've got a schedule of races put together that is focused around the ITU Cross-Tri World Champs, Xterra Pan-American Champs and Xterra World Champs. But, I'll definitely get among any race that pops up along the way as well."