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With the absence of international tourists and an increase in entries, the town’s streets were also filling up a lot sooner.
The Ranch Bar & Grill owner Daniel Anderson said he had definitely noticed a build-up to the event at the weekend, and reservations had filled up at pace.
"The last couple of nights, we’ve definitely noticed a lot more people out and about.
"People seem to be coming into town earlier than previous years. Hopefully they’ll stay on a few days."
"Its been great. There’s not enough Kepler Challenges in a year."
There was no doubt the annual race had helped many of the businesses in the tourist destination who were still struggling with the impacts of Covid-19, Mr Anderson said.
"For me, as a business owner, having to micro-manage each day has been really stressful.
"We’ve had days where we’re 70% down [in business] on last year."
Getaway Te Anau Holiday Park & Apartments general manager Rochelle Peychers said it was great to see "heaps of Kiwis" around town over the past few days.
"Usually, everyone arrives on the Friday but we had a lot of people coming in on Thursday this year."
All of her 50 units had been booked out at the weekend, and several people had extended their stays into this week.
"It’s a great vibe and puts Te Anau on the map as a travel destination.
"I think there’s a misconception that Te Anau is just a stopover for Milford and Doubtful Sound but there’s so much here for people to see."
• Nancy Jiang and Daniel Jones claimed the major titles in a weather-affected 33rd edition of the Kepler Challenge mountain race on Saturday.
Jones cruised to his third win in the men’s race in as many years, while Jiang held off a determined challenge from defending women’s champion and six-time winner Ruby Muir over a 59km alternative course.
For just the fourth time in the event’s history — and the second year in a row — snow, wind and forecast thunder and lightning forced race organisers to go with their plan B route up to the Luxmore Hut before returning to Lake Te Anau and a return leg to and from the Moturau Hut.
“Third win in a row — I’m pretty pleased,” Jones said.
“The track was pretty nice. It was a bit muddy in places where we were crossing over, but there were no big swimming puddles this year and obviously the times reflect that and it was smooth sailing right through."
Jiang, who won the challenge in 2018 and finished third behind Muir last year, had earned a small lead at Luxmore that she was determined not to relinquish. Fiona Love finished in third place.
“I didn’t really have a plan with the late course change," Jiang said.
“It’s good to have competition and it really pushed me. I felt like I dug in pretty deep, so I’m stoked.”
Top-ranked national 10km and cross-country runner Jonathan Jackson won the 27km Luxmore Grunt men’s race from local policeman Dwight Grieve and Sam Manson.
Defending champion Sarah Douglas was a comfortable winner in the women’s event, ahead of Maddie Dillon and Sabrina Grogan.