Multisport greenhorn Nathan Bell was a surprise leader of the men's two-day individual Coast to Coast race after the first day ended at Klondyke Corner yesterday.
Bell, 21, a Christchurch builder, does not expect to retain his 50sec lead today. His bid for the title was not helped by a fall on the mountain run over Goat Pass in the middle of the Southern Alps.
Bell fell on a flat section of the run down from the pass.
"I must have been looking at something else and tripped on a rock."
Bell fell on his hand and both palms had huge gouges of flesh out of them on the soft area next to his thumbs.
With a 67-kilometre paddle the first major stage today, he will at least be in pain, and at worst might have to withdraw.
His first stop after he finished media interviews yesterday was the medical tent in the hope they could patch him up sufficiently to paddle the Waimakariri Gorge.
Bell's slim lead is over Mark Beesley, 50, of Rotorua. A further 6min back is Nathan Jones, of Woodend.
Bell, who is in his first season of multisport racing, said he did not rate his chances of success even before the tumble.
"I've been down the river three times in training but I don't think I've got the fitness to win the race."
He has done some white-water rafting, but is not sure that provided the fitness needed for a four-hour journey down the Waimakariri.
"It will be interesting to see how it goes tomorrow," Bell said. "I don't think it will be flash."
If he doesn't win today Bell's name is likely to be to the fore in future results.
In his first attempt at the Speight's-sponsored event, Bell finished with the third-fastest mountain run yesterday. He was behind two team runners, neither of whom had to do the 55km cycling leg from Kumara to Aickens Corner.
He passed about a dozen runners in the individual race and within a few kilometres of starting the run.
"I didn't know how many people were in front of me. As I went past a few people I started asking questions and about five or six k's in I found out I was leading."
Finishing the first day as the top individual was enough for him. "Today was my day. I'm just going to go out to enjoy myself tomorrow."
His interest in the event was sparked as a youngster watching his father who was a regular starter in the event.
"I've always enjoyed the outdoors – tramping and doing some white-water kayaking – and this summer I did the Kepler Challenge [in Southland] and finished 12th. Then I thought I would give this a whirl."
The men's team race is lead by Trevor Voyce (Nelson) and Matt Blundell (Australia) who enjoy what looks like an unbeatable lead over Steve McKinstry (Auckland) and Daniel Busch (Nelson).
Simone Maier (Germany) and Ginny Rutledge (Wanaka) lead the women's teams race by 3min 28sec from schoolgirls, Kelsee Hamilton (Hokitika) and Nakia Randle (Alexandra).
Men: Nathan Bell (Christchurch) 5hr 1min 16sec 1, Mark Beesley (Rotorua) 5:12:06 2, Nathan Jones (Woodend) 5:18:07 3, Rodney Baldock (Stratford) 5:20:18, 4, John Michael (Leeston) 5:30:13 5, Marcel van Reenen (Kumara) 5:31.52 6.
Women: Toni Keeling (North Shore) 6:22:40 1, Koleighne Ford (Christchurch) 6:25:06 2, Shanel Cornille (Hamilton) 6:40:28 3.
Teams – men: Trevor Voyce (Nelson) and Matt Blundell (Australia) 4:44:10 1, Steve McKinstry (Auckland) and Daniel Busch (Nelson) 5:00:10 2, David Reid and Lawrence Harper (Whakatane) 5:18:26 3.
Teams – women: Simone Maier (Germany) and Ginny Rutledge (Wanaka) 6:28:16 1, Kelsee Hamilton (Hokitika) and Nakia Randle (Alexandra) 6:31:44 2.
- © Fairfax NZ News