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Some of the world’s best multisport athletes, including All Blacks legend #richiemccaw, set out in stormy weather on Saturday to run, cycle, kayak and abseil a 43km-course around Lake Wanaka’s stunning landscape as Red Bull Defiance 2016 got under way.
An enlarged field of 50 teams is taking on the spectacular two-day #event while All Blacks’ World Cup winning former captain McCaw delivered an inspiring performance, when he completed the initial mountain bike stage as part of his training for GODZone in April.
First home in the elite field after day one were Team Defliers Daniel Jones and Alex Hunt. The Whakatane local and the Tasmanian made light of a devilish wind to finish the day’s four stages in 04:49:44, taking a 23-minute lead into day two. Hunt said he and Jones stayed with the leading bunch from the mountain bike start and then made a move on the first major climb.
“The kayak will be key for us tomorrow,” said Hunt. “If we can be in the top group on the paddle that’d be ideal. I can’t imagine many better places for a multisport race.”
The team take a massive lead in the overall standings for Sunday’s brutal second day. They head three teams in the Elite Mixed category – Team Racers Edge (Simone Maier and Marcel Hagner), Team Stellar Kayaks (Corrinne Smit and Hayden Wilde) and two of Sweden’s world-famous ‘Awesome Foursome’ Thule Adventure Team (two-time Olympian Helena Erbenova and Martin Flinta). First Elite Women home were the popular Outside Sports/PAK’nSAVE team of Sia Svendsen and Joanna Williams.
Today’s stages were a challenging 43km/1,200m elevation mountain bike ride through Minaret Station followed by a technical 9km/490m elevation off-road run over Rocky Mountain which included a special abseil section. Then a weather-shortened kayak leg took competitors across Glendhu Bay in testing half-metre waves to the final trail run around Roys Bay to the crowds at the finish line on the Wanaka lakefront.
German-born Wanaka local Simone Maier said she and her teammate had the worst possible start with Marcel Hagner getting a puncture just 40 seconds after the start.
“We lost five-and-a-half minutes with that but managed to pass [Team Stellar Kayaks] about half way down the final run. We’ll try to put the hammer down right from the start tomorrow because Corrinne and Hayden are really fast. Hopefully we won’t have any more mechanical problems,” she said.
Elite Women’s leaders, Joanna Williams and Sia Svendsen said it was awesome to have so much local support in such a tough race.
“The mountain bike was pretty brutal because it starts so fast and there are some big steep hills so you are really pushing it. Then you go into a hard run where a lot of people looked like they were suffering, but we had a good abseil – probably our highlight! I think girls have a good sense of pacing in general. This year we were passing a lot of men’s teams which is good motivation for us,” said Sia.
Course designer Braden Currie won the inaugural Red Bull Defiance in 2014 with fellow Wanaka mulitsporter Dougal Allan. Playing a motivational role this year to support competitors throughout the course, he said the #event had an amazing start and tomorrow will be massive.
“It’s a challenging course and the wind today added to that but I was impressed by the times of the faster teams,” said Currie. “It doesn’t surprise me that Alex and Daniel are leading but I’m definitely surprised by their winning margin today. All credit to them.”
Tomorrow’s second day comprises a 20km kayak down the fast-flowing Clutha River followed by a special clay bird shoot section. Then a 28km/1278m elevation mountain bike along the Pisa Range is followed up by a challenging 27km/1848m elevation trail run from the Cardrona Valley Road up to Mt Alpha and Roy’s Peak before descending to the finish line on the Wanaka lakefront.
Teams will be battling for equal prize money in all three Men’s, Women’s and Mixed Elite categories; the winners taking home $10,000, with $3,500 for second and $2,500 for third.
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