Ussher to step into Judkins' shoes
The biggest bombshell to come out of Saturday's Speights Coast to Coast adventure race probably wasn't Braden Currie's second straight win over Nelson's Richard Ussher.
Arguably even bigger news came at the end of yesterday's prizegiving when it was announced that five-times champion Ussher was taking over from Robin Judkins as race director.
So come February next year, it will be Ussher, rather than the iconic adventure race's creator Judkins, who'll be calling the shots in tandem with new race owner, Trojan Holdings.
In May last year, Judkins sold the Speight's Coast to Coast to Queenstown-based Trojan Holdings who, along with Ussher, will be planning next year's event.
"We've been working behind the scenes for the past four or five months just around what needs to happen in the event, things like that," said a weary but excited Ussher as he looked ahead to next year's event.
"We've got lots of different thoughts, but nothing's set in concrete yet and we need to digest all the information we've got from this year's race. But essentially, we want to see the race grow in terms of numbers and return to capacity fields.
"We want to freshen the experience up for everyone and make it easier logistically for people to come and do the race from around New Zealand and from overseas." However, Ussher rejected any notion that he was done as a competitor.
"I never say never for things like that. At the moment, with the new role, it means that I won't be able to race at this particular race but I've by no means retired as an athlete," he said.
"I'll definitely have a presence at lots of other races around the country and overseas as well. I've got no thoughts about hanging the running shoes and the bike up fulltime just yet.
"I'll be at the [Coast to Coast], but I'll be in a different role. So far the people [who've spoken to me] have been very positive about it."
As for Saturday's race, Ussher admitted yesterday he felt like he'd "been run over by a truck" after Wanaka-based Currie set another blistering pace on the run to eventually finish 20min 42sec ahead of Ussher in 11hr 18min 37sec.
"Yeah, it was a tough day, just not really firing, but Braden had an amazing day and it would have taken an equally amazing day [from me] just to be in the race with him. A pretty solid day out, though, but reasonably happy with getting home in second and looking forward to putting my feet up." After now finishing second to Currie in consecutive events, Ussher acknowledged the emergence of an outstanding new talent on the adventure racing scene.
"He was just firing on all cylinders yesterday and he had an amazing run [whereas] I had a pretty average run.
"When you're starting off, the race is pretty much over unless he has an absolute meltdown, which he didn't have. So it is what it is in racing, sometimes you've just got to take the good with the bad.
"I did feel better than last year but I think, in hindsight, doing the ironman [Challenge Wanaka] and the Coast within the space of a month was probably a big call. It probably would have been easier had the races only been two weeks apart."
- © Fairfax NZ News