MORE than 400 athletes made a splash on the River Dee for the start of Sunday's Royles Deva Triathlon.
The annual challenge - one of the toughest sporting events in Chester - saw successive waves of wet-suited competitors create a dramatic spectacle in the picturesque Groves.
The 1,500m swim upstream and then down to an exit ramp just above Salmon Leap was followed by a 40km bike ride that went from Handbridge via Eccleston, Rossett and up Marford Hill before returning to Chester, where the athletes tackled a 10km run of two laps around Grosvenor Park and the Meadows.
Upton's Oly Stanley, racing for Loughborough, was first out of the river, but his lead was cruelly snatched from him after a crash on his bike took him out of the race.
Former Chester Triathlon Club member Paul Hawkins, of Vicars Cross, then took control of the race to win in a time of one hour, 59 minutes and 27 seconds with Jim Cresswell (TFN) second in 2:00.08 and Nick Riding (Warrington Tri) third with 2:01.05.
First lady was Nicola King (Tri Preston) who completed the course in 2:18.47, followed by Rachel Shepherd (Tri Team Wigan) in 2:19.37 and Kelly Crick-more (Chester Tri) in 2:20.47.
Janine White of hosts Chester Triathlon Club said: 'A downpour mid-morning didn't dampen the fighting spirit of the competitors, but it was a little hard on the marshals out on the course and the spectators.'
Local honours went to Chester Tri members Rob Jones (2:18.57), Ruth Isaacs (2:24.06, first lady veteran), Iain Murray (2:25.06), Graham Blair (2:25.16), John Darby (2:26.01), Phil Brown (2:28.57), Victoria Rawes (2:34.33), Janet Frost (2:35.57), David Vaughan (2:37.43), Paul McLoughlin (2:41.49), Richard Marsh (2:46.05), Dave Humphreys (2:46.28), Mark Chap-pell (2:47.44), Susie Coughlan (2:52.14), Damaris Darby (2:52.55), Dave Bottoms (2:58.00), Tony Hill (3:03.13), Jorge Gonzalez (3:08.20), Louise Cooper (3:11.37) and Lowena Sandercock (3:15.15).