Group ready to race
Dan Moore heads Marlborough's challenge in the 31st edition of the annual Speights Coast to Coast multisport race this weekend.
Moore is contesting the one-day solo world championships section of the event over a 243-kilometre bike, run, kayak course from one side of the South Island, starting at Kumara Beach on the West Coast, to the finish line at Sumner Beach in Christchurch.
The Anakiwa Outward Bound instructor knows the race well having finished runner-up in the individual two-day section a couple of years ago. Last year, an inflamed cornea ruined his chances; he went virtually blind on the Waimakiriri River and had to pull out.
This time his plan is very simple. "I'm focussing on finishing. I really just want to get through and do my best and go as fast as I can. I have my own personal goals. Eye lubricant and sunglasses are the key this year."
Moore is one of nine Marlborough athletes contesting the various sections of New Zealand's greatest multisport race, and among them is Olympic rowing champion Joseph Sullivan from Picton.
Sullivan had a particularly difficult task fitting in multisport training with his daily rowing commitments, which involve two gruelling sessions each day.
Speaking earlier this week, the Marlborough sporting great said: "I haven't done as much training as I would have liked. I run after work [rowing training] and cycle to work. I get in a decent kayak practice each week, about a 15km paddle, half of that upriver.
"I don't think anything prepares you for Coast to Coast. I'm going into it blind, hoping for the best. I just want to finish and I'm feeling pretty good. I think I'm going to enjoy it."
Sullivan will be joined in the one-day solo race by his fellow Olympic gold medallist rower Mahe Drysdale.
Ward husband and wife farmers Nick and Carole Webby are doing a new category this year, the 33km mountain run over Goat Pass.
Nick has done the two-day solo race twice before.
He said the main reason they were just doing the run this year was because they enjoy running and time constraints meant they were unable to commit to the training required to do the whole race.
Former Marlborough hockey representative Sandy O'Connell is also contesting just the mountain run, and he can't wait to tackle it. "It's 20 years since I had a go at the Coast to Coast in a team. I'm looking forward to it. Old age and sore calf muscles, but I'm fit enough."
Wither Hills assistant winemaker Brett Oliver is tackling the two-day teams event with fellow Marlburian Kylie Lewthwaite, and knows what he is in for having done it in 2011. He is doing the mountain run and the final 70km cycle to Sumner. Oliver talked his team-mate into this year's race from a rather difficult position. "I went to the dentist 18 months ago [Lewthwaite]. Kylie was doing my teeth. It's hard to convince someone to do the Coast to Coast when you have a mouth full of dribble and her hand in your mouth."
Lewthwaite is excited about competing and is hopeful she has done enough to get her across the finish line.
Mandy Macfarlane, a design machinist from Blenheim, is contesting the two-day individual section and said: "I'm starting to feel quite worried. I'll get there but it won't be fast."
Ben Burridge, sponsored by Speights, works at Wither Hills Wines with Oliver as a viticultural technician. He is a first-time Coast to Coaster and is tackling the two-day teams section with his friend Ian Schipper, from Wellington. He is doing the mountain run and the final cycle leg and warmed up for the event by clocking a respectable 3hr 32 min in December's Marlborough Marathon event.
His goal is, "Mainly to finish it, experience the race. We aren't going to win it."
Polly Taylor is the hard-luck story of the Marlborough contingent. A kayak mishap on the Wairau River last weekend saw her badly pull a calf muscle clambering out of her kayak from a dangerous position caught in the branch of a tree.
She won the classic women's solo title last year and is devastated at having to withdraw at such a late stage.
The two-day events begin pre-dawn tomorrow, while the one-day sections start early Saturday morning. Richard and Elina Ussher from Nelson are favourites to defend their titles, with Dougal Allen and Sophie Hart likely to be their strongest challengers.
The Marlborough Express