Pressure spurs McNeice to second Challenge win

NATHAN BURDON IN WANAKA
Last updated 05:00 20/01/2014
Dylan McNeice
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HISTORY REPEATS: Dylan McNeice crosses the finish line to win Challenge Wanaka on Saturday.

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Christchurch athlete Dylan McNeice will head to Challenge Taiwan in three months hoping history continues to repeat.

McNeice was a virtual unknown when he won Challenge Wanaka last year, but proved that victory was no fluke when he won in Taiwan in his next outing.

After becoming the first man to win consecutive Challenge titles in Wanaka on Saturday, McNeice will be hoping the pressure he felt trying to defend his maiden title will continue to drive him to success in Taiwan.

It certainly spurred him to great things on Saturday.

Under a weight of expectation - his own and those of the many friends and family who came to watch him race - and the return from a four-year long-distance hiatus by 2010 champion Richard Ussher, McNeice bossed the rest of the field under a leaden Central Otago sky.

He set a record for the 3.8km swim, slightly misjudging his exit, but still emerging in 46min, with a lead of more than four minutes over the chasers.

While his pursuers appeared to test the drafting regulations behind him, McNeice continued to ride away over the 180km bike leg, ensuring he would take a lead of about seven minutes into the 42.2km run.

When Richard Ussher began to struggle on his second lap of the run, McNeice powered his way home by 11 minutes.

"I felt the pressure and I really wanted to deliver," he said.

"I've got so many friends and family here supporting me. Out [on course] a lot of people know my name now and I just wanted to deliver for everyone, and myself of course."

Ussher, who set a course record, which still stands, when he won Wanaka four years ago, paid credit to McNeice.

"I always wanted to come back here after 2010 and everything aligned this year to make it possible. I'm stoked to be here and I gave it everything I had today. You can't win them all; that's why we race. Dylan had a great race today, all class," the five-time Coast to Coast champion said.

"Obviously he's a fantastic swimmer and he just laid it down on the bike, I mean, we were pushing pretty hard and we weren't really making any inroads. On the run, same thing. He's really raised his game from last year and it's great to see."

While Ussher was trying to eat into the buffer established by McNeice, there was another race going on behind him with his multisport colleague Dougal Allan, a Wanaka resident, charging through the pack after coming out of the swim 17 minutes down.

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The only advantage from Allan's swim was that his change bag was easy to find in transition because it was the only one left in the elite field.

Allan then peeled off the best bike leg of the day to elbow his way towards the podium in his debut long-distance triathlon.

"I'm over the moon really. I had a focus on my own game plan all day, just trying to stay in the moment. I was never going to think about the outcome until I crossed the finish line. I passed a few, coming out of the swim as far back as I did, but that didn't really change the way I was racing," he said.

"As I headed out onto Ardmore St [for the run] I thought there was really no way I was going to finish a marathon now. You just can't fathom it at the time. I was told just to take the first 5km easy and develop a rhythm.

"I just took it back to the here and now . . . sure enough 2km or 3km into it I was finding my stride."

Allan, a two-time runner-up in the Coast to Coast, had no problems with third place.

"Just the way the day unfolded, the calibre of the athletes out there, when I was coming in here knowing I was third, I was absolutely stoked."

 

- The Southland Times

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