Long race comes down to the wire

HOT WHEELS: Meg Bichard built up a seven-minute lead on the bike in race one of the Shoe Clinic Mountainbike Duathlon Series.
HOT WHEELS: Meg Bichard built up a seven-minute lead on the bike in race one of the Shoe Clinic Mountainbike Duathlon Series.

Strange how the results in races that take an hour or two to complete can be decided by a matter of seconds.

Race two of the Shoe Clinic Mountainbike Duathlon Series takes place on Sunday and there's a few interesting matchups at the front of the field in both short and long races.

In the long event at race one a fortnight ago, a combination of circumstances left 18-year-old Tom Filmer and 36-year-old Kim Hogarth in a dead heat after more than an hour of racing.

The course takes in gravel roads, undulating and winding single-track and a short rollercoaster section through pine needle-covered sandhills and needs a combination of pure running skills, strength on the bike and a modicum of technical ability – not to mention pace judgment and fitness.

There's no doubting Hogarth's running ability. In 2009 he won five national running titles – the national road champs and half marathon, as well as the 3000 metres, 5000m and steeplechase on the track.

He's in the final stages of his buildup for the Christchurch marathon on June 3, so you'd expect his run speed to be less sharp right now.

Two weeks ago he showed that his form is pretty good, as he seemed be running easily but still finished two minutes ahead of Filmer in the opening two-lap 6-kilometre run.

That wasn't enough. After the first 10km bike lap, the teenager was in the lead and he drew away steadily on lap two, starting on the final run loop with a lead of just over two minutes over Hogarth.

We'll never know what the exact outcome was, as the two runners took different courses. The result was close enough that a dead heat was declared, leaving it until this weekend to battle for the series lead. Whatever the outcome, there's race three in another two weeks, so the battle won't be finally won in just this weekend's race.

Hogarth thinks he can bike faster and nail his opposition on the run – has Filmer got more in the tank?

In the women's long race a fortnight ago, Meg Bichard had much more clarity. The former British mountainbiker has had some successes on two wheels since she settled in the region, but race one was the first time she's put her running to the test.

It was a good outcome, as she followed lead woman Robyn Deane into transition by just a few seconds, then blasted away on the bike course, building a seven-minute lead going into the final run.

The same confusion that gripped the men caught some of the women out too, but the adjusted times still give Bichard more than five minutes in the bank going into race two.

With times added together over the three-race series, the Tineli leader's jersey Bichard will wear on Sunday will be hard to wrench off her shoulders in the two races to come.

Claire Erasmus is a bit young to be a queen, but at the age of 14, she's certainly the princess of the short course, winning it in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Her recent focus has been on shorter races on the track and she showed that in the opening 2km run leg of the short course race, where she finished in third place behind frisky males Ben Moulam (32) and Scott Barr (15).

Her dominance was put to the test by a woman more than three times her age, when recently married Andrea Livingston (47) showed the benefits of connubial bliss with a bike time over the 10km course that was four minutes quicker.

Erasmus spotted the challenge to her title ahead of her towards the end of the second 2km run, but too late. Livingston goes into race two with the leader's jersey and a 10-second buffer.

She has no illusions about her chances of hanging on to it: "Dang whipper-snappers," she said in a weary way, as she conceded that her chances may be slim, but she'll be putting everything she's got into holding her advantage on Sunday.

Young Scott Barr is a veteran of these events, and in the bike section he turned his 16-second deficit into an advantage of more than two minutes – opening it up by another 30 seconds in the final 2km run. He leads the series from Moulam by nearly three minutes and seems a dead cert to clinch the series title.

Ross Mitchell leads the male walking section by two minutes from Roger Denton and Peter Hague, while Golden Bay's Wendy De Maat has a two-minute advantage over Jo Herbert on the women's section.

A feature of this year's series has been the Sports Therapy Kidz Series, with nearly 80 children aged 5-12 turning out for race one. This weekend, the children's race starts at 11.30am and noon to allow parents to race first.

All children are welcome, with a one-off registration of $12 for as many races as they choose.

Information and entries for children and adults at mountainbikeduathlon.co.nz.