Race boss, critic put dispute to side at finish

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 11/02/2013
Robin Judkins and Richard Ussher
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ
WARM GREETING: Coast to Coast director Robin Judkins left, catches up with Richard Ussher, at the end of the men’s one-day race.

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Coast to Coast founder Robin Judkins says he and race critic Richard Ussher are still friends and they plan to sit down and talk about ways to make the iconic multisport race even better.

Five-time champion Ussher spoke out last week in The Press about 10 major concerns about the Coast to Coast - including the entry fee cost - and queried whether Judkins still had the passion required to run the event after 31 years at the helm.

But anyone steeling themselves for a frosty exchange between the pair at the Sumner finish line on Saturday would have been disappointed.

Judkins greeted Ussher - who finished second in the Longest Day - with as much gusto as any other competitor.

"Richard Ussher and I are friends and we always were," Judkins said yesterday.

"We had a good yarn at the finish line and agreed then to talk much later [about Ussher's substantive concerns], and we will.

"So when we caught up again at the prize giving [yesterday], I got a huge chuckle out of him, he was grinning from ear to ear."

Ussher said he saw Judkins for the first time at the finish line.

"I kept missing him [before the race]. Every time I came up somewhere, he seemed to be flying off in his helicopter. From my point of view, I don't see why there should be any animosity."

The 36-year-old said he had simply questioned whether Judkins still had the passion for the event after 30 years.

"But far be it for me to say. Without Robin, there wouldn't be a Coast to Coast. The sport owes him a lot.

"But in this day and age, things need to evolve, to keep pace with people's expectations. I just want to see the race become the best it can."

So, too, does Judkins, who reeled off the highlights of the 2013 event, including a new Longest Day champion (Wanaka's Braden Currie), a new record in the women's two-day race by first-timer Jess Simson and the best weather in 31 years.

Judkins said it had been "a helluva week" after Ussher's outburst. "But it's also been a great time - I really do believe that now, though I wouldn't have five days ago. It's made me reflect on the last 31 years and this weekend's made me appreciate just how much I still love it."

Judkins was particularly proud of the way his 450-strong support team - most of them volunteers - had behaved.

"They took [the criticism] hard but by the end of the weekend, they were buzzing."

The weekend went without a hitch, Judkins said.

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"This is a first, only one Longest Day competitor failed to make the river cutoff time at Mt White Bridge by 3pm and he was only 5 minutes late."

The last paddler was off the Waimakariri River by 8.45pm and the final finisher arrived at Sumner just before midnight.

Judkins, who had his right shoulder in a sling after dislocating it answering an early-morning phone call, reckoned he now had "overuse in the arm" from shaking "all but 10" of the 600-plus field's hands.

He's had to forgo his usual after-race overseas skiing holiday due to the injury but will unwind salmon fishing with friends.

- The Press

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