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Despite having travelled hundreds of kilometres over several days, two teams are still neck-and-neck midway through the gruelling eight-day Godzone adventure race in Canterbury.
Queenstown team Tiki Tour, made up of Tom and George Lucas, Mike Kelly and Corrinne O'Donnell, set the pace yesterday on stage four, an 84km trek from Lake Clearwater over the Big Hill and Palmer Ranges.
But they were followed relentlessly all day by team Perpetual Guardian, led by world adventure racing champion Chris Forne, of Queenstown, and Wanaka trio Simone Maier, Marcel Hagener and Emily Wilson.
Less than half an hour separated the two teams throughout as they headed towards the Rakaia River, where a 53km packraft stage awaits.
On Monday, Tiki Tour had led the way in stage three, a 160km mountain bike leg, but were passed by Perpetual Guardian overnight while they slept.
But upon awaking, Tiki Tour regained the lead and looked intent on keeping it.
Godzone race director Adam Fairmaid said a ''real battle'' was starting to develop and sleep strategy could prove vital.
''It's not unusual for the top teams to have little sleep as part of their racing strategy but eventually they will be forced to stop somewhere and grab a few hours.''
The leading teams are expected to reach the Rakaia River and the start of stage five this morning.
The eighth edition of Godzone began last Sunday at Akaroa and will finish at the same location this coming Sunday.
More than 250 competitors are taking part in the event, that has three race categories, ranging in distance from 555km to 613km.