Coast to Coast champ fastest 'slug' you'll meet
No one will be calling new Coast to Coast champion Braden Currie "Slug" after he blitzed five-time winner Richard Ussher, winning $10,000 that will help pay for a new block of Wanaka land.
Currie, 26, gave a howl of delight as he crossed the Sumner Beach finish-line, dashing the tape to the ground as he celebrated with his family, including brother Glen (who was third in the race two years ago), wife Sally and four-year-old son Tarn.
"We've got a second baby on the way in eight weeks and we just put a deposit down on a block of land last week and didn't really know how we'd earn the money for it.
"This might help."
Ussher, chasing a third consecutive title, could only finish second. He congratulated Currie - his adventure-racing team-mate - with an "awesome, mate".
"This is unbelievable," Currie said. "I really didn't believe I would get a chance to win today, I didn't think my biking would be strong enough and I really didn't think my paddling would be strong enough.
"I'm just stoked. But I was always willing to risk everything and I had probably the best [mountain run] I've ever had."
Currie grew up on a farm near Methven and admitted he was overweight as a youngster. Older brother Glen - the main man in his support crew yesterday - once called him "a fat slug" after he gave up the ghost in a backyard cricket game.
The nickname stuck but 16 years later, "Slug" Currie is rather rapid indeed - especially at scaling the boulders and peaks on the mountain run from the Mingha-Deception area on the West Coast to the Klondyke Corner side of the main divide.
Currie led the field into Klondyke by a near 10-minute margin on Nelson's Trevor Voyce and Wanaka's Dougal Allan with Ussher 13 minutes 05 seconds behind him in fourth.
The former Methven man was surprised to find he was four minutes ahead at Dorian Creek "halfway up the river". "A minute after that I fell down a hole and smashed my knee and I had to walk for a couple of minutes." But Currie got to Goat Pass to discover he'd extended his advantage to six minutes.
He knew he had to be at his best over the second half of the race to hold off proven paddler Ussher and Allan, an acclaimed cyclist.
His heart sank a little as an easterly set in, making for a head wind on the final ride.
But Currie's cycle time was only 10 seconds slower than Ussher's.
"I don't think there was any time I thought I had it stitched up," Currie said. "Maybe the last five minutes, I thought ‘s... I might win this'."
Currie led Ussher by six minutes for most of the 70km ride across the Canterbury Plains but at every time-check he expected the gap to close.
He said his first Coast to Coast victory, on his second attempt at the Longest Day, meant everything to him.
Currie heaped credit on wife Sally, saying she had supported him taking a year off work to train and race fulltime. The couple built up a cycle touring business in Australia that they now run from Wanaka.
He has won $30,000 in "15 or 16" adventure racing events in New Zealand, Australia and Asia.
Now the new Coast to Coast champion is eyeing a crack at the half-Ironman circuit in Europe later this year where the potential rewards are greater.
If he does as well as he did yesterday, the Currie clan may be able to afford a new house on that block of land at Wanaka.
Currie won the race in 11hr 06min 51.91sec - almost 6min ahead of Ussher in 11hr 12min 37.72sec. Allan was third in 11hr 21min 34.63sec. Whakatane's Sam Clark was fourth and Voyce fifth.
Ussher was gracious in defeat, saying the better man won on the day. The 36-year-old had criticised aspects of the race organisation before the event, but insisted the resultant controversy did not affect his preparation.
- © Fairfax NZ News