Five-time winner to Richard Ussher in new era

BRENDON EGAN
Last updated 07:16 17/02/2014
Elina and Richard Ussher
NEW DIRECTION: Richard Ussher has gone from multiple winner to race director of the Coast to Coast race.

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Richard Ussher, one of the most successful competitors in the history of the Coast to Coast, has been named the new race director.

The Press can reveal five-time Longest Day winner will take over the position previously held for the last 32 years by event founder Robin Judkins.

Judkins will take on a lesser support role next year after being race director for the final time on Saturday. He sold the ownership rights to Queenstown-based Trojan Holdings last May.

Ussher finished second in the Longest Day men's individual race on Saturday behind winner Braden Currie.

The Nelson athlete was offered the job by Trojan Holdings late last year after an earlier informal chat with Trojan director Mike Davies about his ideas to reinvigorate the race.

The 37-year-old said he had no plans to stop racing competitively anytime soon but viewed it is an opportunity to gain experience in a different side of the sport.

"I'm looking at this as adding another string to the bow," Ussher said.

"It's good for me moving forward. You can't race forever. I've been actively looking for new challenges. I think this will be definitely be an exciting new challenge."

Ussher said he would not be lining up in next year's race to completely focus on the race director's role but would continue to compete in New Zealand and overseas.

"The plan for me for the next 12 months racing-wise is maybe even more races and races I haven't been to in the past and won. I'll be looking to connect with potential participants for the Coast to Coast."

Judkins brought plenty of attention to the Coast to Coast with his flamboyant personality and gift of the gab, but Ussher said he would carry out the role his own way.

Last year, he hit out at the state of the event and identified 10 criticisms, which needed to be fixed to boost flagging participation numbers.

Ussher said changes would be announced in the coming months and was confident they could attract more entries for the 2015 version with some new initiatives.

"It's not about re-inventing the wheel. It's about trying to make the race a bit more accessible and freshening things up a bit."

Since the February 2011 earthquake, there have been calls to take the finish of the race away from Sumner to North Canterbury to avoid traffic issues.

Ussher said there were no plans to change the finish route but they were always looking at what was best for all competitors.

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"More than likely in the interim it will stay in Sumner ... If it was a better experience for the racers then it would be an option to look at moving it."

Davies confirmed to The Press last week the race would definitely finish in Sumner next year.

"There have been some challenges with the road heading to Sumner, but we've got no intention of shifting it at the moment."

- Fairfax Media

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