Elite Racers Battle It Out
Elite Racers Battle It Out
Queenstown, November 4 2006: New Zealand's elite adventure racers battled it out in the 24 Hours of Southern Traverse, on a challenging and spectacularly scenic course in the Queenstown region today, with line honours going to the high profile Richard Ussher and Nathan Fa'avae led team , R and R Sport NZ.
The Nelson based team included Finnish adventure racing ace Elina Rautila, and Luke Vaughan of Christchurch, who is recognised as one of New Zealand's up and coming adventure racers.
R and R Sport NZ won the 103km race in 15 hours 09 minutes about half an hour ahead of the highly experienced Video Ezy team of Tane Humphrey, Sally Pearson, Tim Pearson and Ray Hope, a combined Queenstown, Alexandra and Dunedin team.
The race began at 12.30pm this morning and the first stage took the 20 four and two person teams in the darkness up on to Queenstown Hill.
Race director Geoff Hunt says it is the first time that a 24 hour race has started at this time of night but he wanted to make a point of difference.
"We have had a great response from the athletes who particularly enjoyed racing the first Queenstown Hill stage in the moonlight."
Highly regarded Queenstown athlete Haydn Key, racing in the two man R & R Sport team with Matt Woods of Dunedin, was first off Queenstown Hill arriving at the Frankton Marina at 4.10am to start the 7km mountain bike leg to Kelvin Heights. From here teams paddled 15kms across Lake Wakatipu and down the Kawarau River.
Video Ezy pushed in front on the paddling leg to be the first time off the water and on to mountainbikes for a demanding 23 km section via the Crown Range and Glencoe Station to Arrowtown.
But R and R Sport NZ, who had been in sixth place after the Queenstown Hill stage kicked into gear on this section to finish just a minute behind Video Ezy at the transition stage at Arrowtown.
The next stage took teams on a tough 10km mountain trek via Brow Peak to Coronet Peak Ski Area. R and R Sport NZ seized their chance and overtook Video Ezy to arrive at Coronet Peak leading the field at 10.48am. Video Ezy arrived at 11.07am and R&R Sport passed through in third place at 11.20am.
Stage 6 was a 24km mountainbike ride to Arthurs Point then to Moke Lake via the Moonlight Track. R and R Sport Ltd continued to maintain its lead arriving at the transition area at 12.43, before taking off on the gruelling final 10km mountain trek via Ben Lomond, to the finish line at Earnslaw Park in Queenstown.
The team crossed the finish line at 4.09pm. Video Ezy was second at 4.44pm and R & R Sport was placed third, as well as claiming first place in the two men team division, crossing the finish at 5.49pm.
The hardluck story went to the highly proficient Groundworks Queenstown team which became unranked after team member Mark Williams injured his ankle and was unable to continue after the fourth stage mountain bike ride into Arrowtown. His team mates Gordy Watson and Mitch Murdoch of Queenstown and Karl Boomsma of Hawea Flat continued to race and kept up a solid pace at the front of the field, crossing the finish line third at 5.02pm, but officially unranked.
Richard Ussher who was in the winning US Nike team at the 2006 Adventure Racing World Championships in Sweden says the 24 Hours of Southern Traverse was a highly competitive race.
"We had some close racing particularly with Video Ezy. It was a really good battle with them which was great because like everyone else we want to make a race of the events we enter."
He says despite being down the field in sixth place after the first stage, when they "took a gamble on Queenstown Hill which didn't pay off," they were able to come back and win the race.
"This is the sign of a good team which can pull together. Ours is essentially a brand new team and will be the basis for a new New Zealand elite team we are putting together to race professionally."
The course drew widespread praise for its diversity and its fantastic scenery.
Haydn Key who knows the Wakatipu Basin intimately says the course went to places he had never been to before.
"It was certainly hard enough but it was fantastic. I feel as if we have circumnavigated the Basin and the views we got from some places were incredible."
The 24 Hours of Southern Traverse was a departure from the traditional five day Southern Traverse event, which has been run for the past 15 years, making it the most established adventure race of its kind in the world.
Geoff Hunt says he is pleased with the reaction to the course.
"There was probably a lot more uphill in it than they anticipated and there were certainly some challenging sections but I wanted to include all three disciplines of trekking, mountainbiking and kayaking. It was a good format and many of the competitors who have raced in previous Southern Traverses enjoyed the change this year to a 24 hour event."