Twice as nice for McNeice at Challenge Wanaka
The pressure of starting Challenge Wanaka as defending champion might have been weighing on Dylan McNeice's shoulders, but it wasn't enough to stop him from becoming the first male competitor to go back-to-back in the long-distance triathlon.
"Honestly, I think the preparation is what changed the most. I felt a lot of pressure and felt like I had to deliver today," he said.
"I knew I had to prepare better than ever and sometimes I was never feeling that good in training, I was never running that well. There's no such thing as perfection, but that's as close as I'll ever get [today]. It felt great."
McNeice set a new course record for the 3.9km swim, emerging from Lake Wanaka more than four minutes ahead of his rivals.
He extended that lead to more than seven minutes during the 180km bike leg and fended the challenge of 2010 winner and course record-holder Richard Ussher over the 42.2km run to bank his third iron-distance title in a time of 8hr 38min 48sec.
Ussher, who will chase a sixth Coast to Coast title next month, had tough moments in both the bike and run legs but was still able to keep plenty of pressure on McNeice.
"I don't know what it was, but I just didn't have the legs that I sometimes have. I pushed really hard and I just had a really bad spot for about 10km and I lost probably two minutes in that 10km before I managed to right the ship," he said.
"On the run I was like, I've got nothing to lose and the first lap went really well but Dylan was obviously running really great because I only took about three minutes out of him and then I had a bit of a detonation around the outlet track the second time around."
Ussher eventually finished just over 11 minutes behind, with fellow multisporter and Wanaka local Dougal Allan finishing a further five minutes in arrears, on his long distance triathlon debut.
Cambridge's Candice Hammond turned the tables on five-time winner Gina Crawford, forcing her into second place after finishing runner-up herself in 2013. Hammond overtook Crawford late in the bike and managed to hold theadvantage.
"This is my third year racing here and for the other two there have always been really gusty winds. Today I was able to settle into my rhythm a little bit better and enjoy it for the first time," Hammond said.
Wanaka local Simone Maier was third.
Auckland triathlon coach Bevan McKinnon won the Lake Wanaka Half men's race, with fellow Aucklander Larisa Marsh taking out the women's race.
Marsh was originally in the elite women's field but had to drop down to the 1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21km run after injuring a thumb during training.
Former Olympic road cyclist Robin Reid was the first age group competitor home in the full distance event.
Elite men: Dylan McNeice 8:38:48 1; Richard Ussher 8:49:49 2; Dougal
Allan 8:54:37 3.
Elite women: Candice Hammond (9:33:54 1; Gina Crawford 9:41:08 2;
Simone Maier 9:48:50 3.