Braden Currie claims Coast to Coast
The Speight's Coast to Coast has a new champion with Wanaka's Braden Currie breaking five-time champion Richard Ussher's stranglehold on the Longest Day title.
Currie, 26, gave a whoop of delight as he crossed the Sumner Beach finish-line, dashing the tape to the ground as he celebrated with his family, including brother Glen, who was third in the race two years ago, pregnant wife Sally and four-year-old son Tarn.
Ussher, who was chasing a third consecutive title, could only finish second, congratulating Currie - his adventure racing teammate - with an "awesome, mate''.
"This is unbelievable,'' Currie said. "I really didn't believe I would get a chance to win today, I didn't think my biking would be strong enough and I really didn't think my paddling would be strong enough...
"I'm just stoked. But I was always willing to risk everything and I had probably the best [mountain run] I've ever had.''
Currie led the field into Klondyke Corner by a near 10-minute margin on Nelson's Trevor Voyce and Wanaka's Dougal Allan with Ussher 13 minutes 05 seconds behind him in fourth.
But the former Methven man knew he had to be at his best over the second half of the race to hold off Ussher and Allan, both acclaimed cyclists.
"I don't think there was any time I thought I had it stitched up,'' Currie said.."Maybe the last five minutes, I thought ''s... I might win this'.''
Currie led Ussher by six minutes for most of the 70km ride across the Canterbury Plains but at every time-check he expected the gap to close.
He said his first Coast to Coast victory at his second attempt at the Longest Day meant "everything to me''.
"Obviously, I've got a young family, we've got a second baby on the way in eight weeks and we just put a deposit down on a block in land last week and didn't really know how we'd earn the money for it.
"This [the $10,000 winner's cheque] might help.''
Ussher was gracious in defeat, saying the better man won on the day. "I gave it everything but I just wasn't good enough today. Braden just smoked it on that run.''
The 36-year-old criticised aspects of the race organisation before the event, but insisted the resultant controversy did not affect his preparation and the majority of feedback from fellow athletes had been supportive.
Currie won the race in 11hr 06min 51.91sec - almost 6min ahead of Ussher in 11hr 12min .37.72sec and Allan third in 11hr 21min 34.63sec.
Whakatane's Sam Clark was fourth and Nelson's Trevor Voyce fifth.
SIMSON BREAKS RECORD
First-time Coast to Coaster Jess Simson set a new women's two-day race record this afternoon.
The 23-year-old from Wanaka - competing in only her second multisport event - beat Hamilton's Shanel Cornille after consolidating her overnight lead.
Simson won in 12hr 48min 11sec - shaving more than 11 minutes off Anne Woodley's previous record mark set in 1997 over a shorter course.
Asked if she would take on the one-day race in 2014, Simson said: "Yes, probably, I've learned a lot this year. [But] at no point out there did I ever wish I was dong the one-day.' I was actually feeling quite joyous for doing the two-day.''
Simson said her victory would give her great confidence in her new career. "I'll just want to keep learning and accelerating. I"m quite committed to the cause of advancing in multisport.''
The Department of Conservation ranger has already done three adventure races in China and said her only rough moment in today's race was "in the last hour of the kayak [on the 67km Waimkariri River stage] when I ran out of nutrition.
"But after five minutes on the bike, I was back to nomral again. I've got a saying that 'what goes down must come up,'' she quipped.
Simson paid tribute to her "lone ranger support team'' - her husband Hazen Simson, who organised all her transition changes and "even lifted me out of the kayak even though he had a bad back and I said he didn't have to.''
Earlier the West Coast got its first two-day men's race winner in the event's 31-year history.
Greymouth chiropractor Seamus Meikle was the first individual runner home at Sumner Beach about 29 minutes ahead of second-placed Mitch Munro (Christchurch) and William Sams (Waikato).
The 27-year-old, orginally from Waiuku, was the overnight leader and made no race of it today on the Waimakariri River cycle section and the 70km cycle ride to Christchurch.
Sams, a 23year-old first-time Coast to Coaster and Otago physical education graduate, was second overnight.
But Munro, a 24-year-old builder, had a strong second day on the river and the bike to go past Sams and push Christchurch's Josh Harris, who was third overnight, out of the minor placings.
Meikle, who was 10th in the Longest Day one-day event last year, said it was a great thrill to win a title for the West Coast and his first Coast to Coast crown.
He may re-enter the one-day race next year. "I was going to do it this time but I got sick overseas at the end of last year, so I was worried about crapping my pants during the race,'' he quipped.
"It wouldn't be a very good look.''
Meikle said he was still not fully recovered from the stomach bug he contracted at an adventure race in China.
Meanwhile, Auckland doctor Steven McKinstry was the first Speight's Coast to Coast competitor home to Sumner Beach for the second successive year as he and teammate Daniel Busch retained their two-day teams title.
McKinstry, a 30-year-old junior doctor working in plastic surgery at Middlemore Hospital, hailed Busch's paddling prowess on the Waimakariri River for allowing him to clear away on the 70km cycle across the Canterbury Plains.
"Dan's an amazing teammate. He powered through the whole field [on the kayak stage] so I was first on the bike. He makes my job easy.''
McKinstry, who held the two-day teams' race record for the final cycle leg, said he was not sure if he and Busch, a 34-year-old roofer from Nelson, would be back to defend their title next year.