Rival backs Richard Ussher's race critique

GREG FORD
Last updated 05:00 06/02/2013
Dougal Allan
IAIN MCGREGOR/Fairfax NZ
IN SUPPORT: Dougal Allan, pictured starting the Coast to Coast in 2010, says he has "huge respect" for his rival Richard Ussher coming forward and criticising Robin Judkins' multisport event.

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One of this year's Coast to Coast favourites, Dougal Allan, has come out in support of his main rival, Richard Ussher, in the aftermath of Ussher's decision to strongly criticise the race .

Ussher's comments sparked fierce debate in multisport circles, with nine-times champion Steve Gurney saying he was unwise to voice them on the eve of the race.

However, Allan said: "I have huge respect for Richard to come forward and say these things he did.

"He didn't need to, but I think he has gained a lot of respect in doing so because in the social circles I am in, these are discussions we have every year about Coast to Coast, and not everyone is on a platform to be listened to like Richard.

"So we probably owe him a lot to speak about the things we have been thinking about and speaking about for a few years."

Ussher identified 10 key criticisms of the race, the most controversial aimed at race owner Robin Judkins.

While that created plenty of interest, Allan said Ussher's disquiet about the high cost of entering the race resonated most.

"I work 25 hours a week and probably train 25 hours a week too, so there's not a lot of opportunity to make big money working part-time, so I rely to some extent on prizemoney.

"Not so much because I feel like I deserve to buy a house or anything, but more to stay ahead and try and keep the income above my expenses, which is pretty hard to do, or, I would probably argue, impossible to do.

"Coming second in Coast to Coast puts you on the bones of your arse all summer.

"But I still come back to Coast to Coast and obviously I don't do it for the money. But it would be nice to relieve some of the financial stress involved."

While Ussher's comments were greeted with widespread approval, they did not find favour with everyone.

Last year's runner-up in the women's Longest Day race, Sophie Hart, who lives "five minutes down the road from Ussher", said the Coast to Coast was still "the race to do".

Gurney said while he "agreed with a couple" of Ussher's recommendations for change, his timing was wrong and they should have been kept in-house.

"I can't understand why he would attack the race like that a few days before it, and the race isn't really about the professional side of things. It is a participation event and opportunity for ordinary people to achieve something remarkable."

However, Allan said this did not overshadow the fact that "the race is labelled as a world multisport championship, so it has to be run accordingly".

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"Richard is touching on the professional side of the race. That's where seeding top athletes and the rest of it comes into it. So if he wants to call it a world multisport championship he needs to run it accordingly.

"[Robin Judkins] is a great face for the race and always has been, so I don't know if that is a fair call to make, although he is probably the key decision-maker behind the scenes, so a lot of changes that could be made probably rely on Juddy being open-minded to make them.

"But my first thought [after reading yesterday's published comments] was good on Richard. In his position he does not have to come out and say those things. He is winning the race and has built a good profile for himself through the Coast to Coast and all the rest of it, so he has a lot to lose.

"But I have got a lot of respect for him as an athlete after reading some of those things. My respect for him only increased and it was a pretty bold move, and a good move, really, as I agree with a lot of things he said."

- The Press

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