Simson in class of her own on mountain run
A new star may have been born in the Speight's Coast to Coast with two-day women's race leader Jess Simson producing one of the quickest mountain runs by a female in the race's 31-year history.
Simson scorched home to Klondyke Corner yesterday in 3hr 40min - the second-fastest individual behind men's race leader Seamus Meikle (3min 23min 36sec).
The 23-year-old Wanaka conservation ranger was competing in just the second multisport event of her career after winning the recent Lake Waikaremoana Challenge.
She broke Claire Parkes' two-day individual record of 3hr 41min 55sec set in 1998.
Only Andrea Devine, in the two-day teams, has run faster - 3hr 24min 08 sec in 1994 when the course was significantly shorter.
Andrea Murray - the Longest Day record holder - holds the women's run record in 3hr 22min 49sec set in 1997 over the shorter course.
But Simson was oblivious to the trainspotting trivia as she burst across the line at Klondyke with a broad smile on her face.
But she is clearly someone to watch in the future after beating defending Coast to Coast women's one-day champion Elina Ussher at Lake Waikaremoana.
Simson "did a few matrix moves" and had some close calls on the mountain run but managed to avoid a fall.
She was "on the verge of cramping up quite a bit along the way" but said she would "work on nutrition for next year".
Simson said her first-day effort "gives me a lot more confidence" and admitted she was keen to do the Longest Day.
"The more mistakes I can make [now], the better."
She had a 28min 53sec lead overnight on 31-year-old Hamilton physiotherapist Shanel Cornille.
But Simson said she wouldn't be worrying too much about building up a buffer. "I'm just out there to do my best."
She hadn't done a lot of bunch riding so stuck with the second group "just to stay safe", arriving at Aickens in 1hr 50min 35sec - only 9sec ahead of Cornille.
Despite the terrain "tricky underfoot" and going went "the wrong a way a few times", she left her challenger in her dust on the mountain run. That was remarkable considering she had just one practice on the 55km course.
Mind you, she had an expert guide, Wanaka's Dougal Allan, runner-up in the last three men's Longest Day events.
Meanwhile, Greymouth chiropractor Seamus Meikle cracked the back of the mountain run to lead the men's two-day individual field.
The 27-year-old was part of a three-man breakout group on the first cycling stage into Aickens.
Meikle used his local knowledge of the Mingha Deception-Goat Pass course to power away from Hamilton's first-time Coast to Coaster William Sams and Christchurch's Josh Harris on the 33km running course.
He thought the first run off Serpentine Beach near Kumara "would have been a bit quicker".
"My legs were getting a bit tired on the bike," said Meikle, who did the 55km cycling stage to Aickens in 1hr 39min 05sec. So he thought he would pace himself on the run till Goat Past where he began to break away.
Meikle initially regarded himself as a kayaker but is "now probably more of a runner".
Sams was happy to be up with Meikle and Harris on the bike and for "half the run".
Sams, 23, said he would "try and rehab myself" for today's racing but wasn't fixated in the final result. "I think it's more a challenge against myself rather than worrying about what other people are doing."
Auckland doctor Steven McKinstry was the first teams runner home, finishing ahead of Meikle.
The 30-year-old has a title to defend - he and Nelson roofer Daniel Busch, 34, won the teams title last year. McKinstry was the two-day individual champion in 2007.