Patients inspire Coast to Coast's Brendon Vercoe

BRENDON EGAN
Last updated 05:00 15/02/2014
Brendon Vercoe
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ
FRONTRUNNER: Brendon Vercoe on day 1 of the Coast to Coast.

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Christchurch's Brendon Vercoe used inspiration from patients at Burwood Hospital to guide him to an early lead in the Coast to Coast's two-day men's individual race.

The 27-year-old, who is a physiotherapist in the hospital's spinal unit, finished the first half of the race with a time of 5hr, 27min, 39sec. He will attempt to build on his promising performance today.

Fellow Cantabrian Byron Munro sits second in the two-day individual men's race with a time of 5.34.58.

Methven's Rob Nesbitt is just over a minute back from him after a time of 5.36.16 on day one.

Vercoe said his patients had served as major motivation for him before the race and that he was hoping to make them proud.

"That's something I draw a lot of inspiration from, my patients there, the determination and strength they've got to work through their tough times," Vercoe said.

"I've got a couple of key words on my thighs from one of my patients. Before the race, he told me a wee story about his grandfather and the war and using those words 'kia kaha'."

Kia kaha means "stay strong" in Maori and Vercoe certainly did that on day one.

Vercoe found the 34-kilometre mountain run challenging and ran into difficulty on the way up to the Goat Pass Hut.

"She was a pretty tough run to be honest. It was really slippery up there going to the hut. I took a good fall off one of the big boulders and slipped onto my back and winded myself for a bit. I'm sure Rob [Nesbitt] saw it sitting behind me." 

Vercoe, who finished eighth in the two-day individual event of the 2011 Coast to Coast, said the boys would be separated from the men today during the 67km kayak down the Waimakariri River.

Low river flows should make for some slow paddling times.

"Everyone is paddling on the same river. It's not really a disadvantage. I've paddled in it the last month or two," he said.

"I think the big difference really is you've just got be a lot more confident about getting in the right flow."

Kayaking was Vercoe's weak point the last time he competed in the Coast to Coast and he had put in the hard yards since then to improve.

Irish native Fiona Dowling, who lives in Wellington, is the women's leader after the first day of the two-day individual women's race.

Dowling, who is doing her first two-day race, posted a time of 6hr, 8min, 30sec, nearly 19 minutes ahead of the next best women's competitor, Christchurch's Hilary Totty.

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Dowling was pleased with how she had gone on day one, but was unsure about her prospects today given kayaking is her weakest discipline.

"It's only day one, so I can't get ahead of myself. [Yesterday] was always going to be my easier day. I wasn't expecting too much.

"I'm not too flash in the boat and don't know the river too well, so I'll likely go for a swim." 

Dowling, who labelled herself "not a great cyclist" managed to avoid a spill on the 55km bike leg. She had been over the mountain run twice before in the lead-up, but found it tricky at times.

"It was a pretty slippery start to the run. I felt a bit more like a beachball than a mountain goat over those boulders," she said.

In the two-day two-person teams, Paul Massie and Robert Loveridge have a 4 minute lead over Lex and Nico de Jong after day one.

They registered a time of 5hr,13min, 44sec.

Team Thermatech, consisting of Tania Leslie, Stevo Porter and Scott Ronald have a healthy 17-minute lead in the three-person teams' event over the Christ's College trio of Michael Allison, Sam Doyle and Nico Cronshaw.

Hamner Springs' Nick Hirschfeld took out the individual mountain run in a time of 3hr, 26min, 32sec.

- Stuff

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