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Impressive Winners & Surprise Finishers

Impressive Winners & Surprise Finishers Light Up Day 1 at Speight’s Coast to Coast

Nelson’s Trevor Joyce was a surprise starter when the Speight’s Coast to Coast Two Day race got underway today on the West Coast beach of Kumara. But there were no surprises when he tore up the course to establish an unassailable lead in the Two Day Teams Race.

Joyce had been an entrant for the One Day world title race, which starts tomorrow. He has finished as high as second place in the One Day event and was expected to push race favourite Richard Ussher this year. But a late invite to an adventure race in Patagonia next week saw Joyce change to the two day teams race this weekend, where he put up one the fastest ever runs to give himself and Australian teammate Matt Blundell a massive 16 minute lead for day two.

Almost 600 endurance athletes from 15 countries lined up on Kumara Beach this morning in near perfect racing conditions. Drizzly rain and light breezes on the West Coast turned to bright sunshine as the field made its way through today’s 3k run, 55k road cycle and 36k mountain run.

The opening run and cycle failed to establish any clear leaders, with three bunches eventually combining to see more than 50 cyclists finish the first stage together at the front of the race.

Trevor Voyce wasted no time taking the lead as they headed into the Deception River valley, although admitting, “I started pretty fast and after 3k I felt pretty stuffed. But once I got into the mountain things settled down.”

“Settled down,” is a relative term, of course, because his competition didn’t see Voyce again until the finish line at Klondyke Corner, near Arthur’s Pass.

Over Goat Pass he had 10 minutes in hand over Christchurch’s Steve McKinstry, another team entrant paired with Nelson kayaker Daniel Busch. At the finish he had extended this to 16 minutes and only a near disaster tomorrow will see them beaten.

“My philosophy today was just really smoke it from the start and see what happened,” said Voyce after becoming one of only half a dozen people to have broken three hours on the Speight’s Coast to Coast run section.

While Voyce’s teammate, Matt Blundell, did a good job to hand over to Voyce at the front of the race after the cycle, tomorrow the Australian has the pressure of maintaining that lead on the 67k kayak before handing to Voyce for the final 70k road cycle into the finish line on Christchurch’s Sumner Beach.

Voyce and Blundell stopped the clock in 4hrs 44min 10secs, and at 16 minutes back McKinstry and Busch are the only pairing close enough to threaten their lead.

The individual racing was somewhat closer, with Christchurch’s Nathan Bell and Rotorua’s Mark Beesley separated by just one minute. Bell clocked in at 5hrs 11min 16secs, but it was Beesley’s effort that impressed for the fact that he’s 50 years old and has a real chance of winning the overall event rather than just his Classic 50s division.

The women’s race produced a surprise leader as Auckland 20 year old Toni Keeling finished looking fresh and keen for more tomorrow. In contrast, Waihi’s Koleighne Ford was just two and a half minutes behind but the effects of the first day were clearly harder on her than Keeling.

“I had just such as awesome day,” grinned Keeling. “Last year I finished eighth, which was a total surprise because I never ever dreamed of being competitive. So when I realised I must be leading during the run today, it was pretty amazing. I knew someone was not far behind, so I just kept running hard and waiting to see if she’d catch me. But she didn’t.”

Asked how she thought she might fare tomorrow, however, Keeling wasn’t sure: “It’s a real surprise to be leading, so I don’t know what will happen tomorrow.”

The women’s teams race is shaping up similarly to the men equivalent after the unlikely German and Wanaka pairing of Simone Maier and Ginny Rutledge clocked in after 6hrs 28min 43secs to establish a 13min lead over the Ashburton and Whakatane pairing of Francesca McAdam and Nikita Watkins, with another 13 minutes back to Meredith Orr and Louise Egerton from Christchurch.

One woman who won the hearts of everyone today was Christchurch Neelusha Memon, who became the first blind person to make it through the Goat Pass moun run. The 27 year old finished today in 11hrs 56min, beating the cut-off deadline more just over half an hour.

Clearly exhausted, she stumbled a few times in the finishing chute but still gave a grin and waved back at the crowds she could hear cheering loudly. Easing to stop on the finish line she whispered almost to herself, “I did it, I did it,” before bending over hands on knees for several seconds before being swamped by family and friends.

“It was really hard. Harder than I thought it would be,” she said. “The single track (bush tracks) was the hardest. Trying to follow what your guides say is coming up. But my guides were so awesome. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Achieving great things with the help of others is a cause that Memon lives for. With the help of guides, she has climbed Mt Aspiring and raced at the Paracycling World Championships and promotes disabled sport through her website

Today’s opening road run and road cycle presented no real problems for Memon, who lost her sight 11 years ago to a post-viral auto-immune disease that put her in a coma four months. But the mountain run was the biggest challenge of the entire weekend for her. Tomorrow the race has a 15k cycle, 67k kayak on the Waimakariri River and a final 70k cycle to Christchurch, all of which she is confident of achieving to become the first legally blind person to finish the Speight’s Coast to Coast.

“We are confident,” she said after finishing the mountain run tonight. But not over confident.”

This year’s 30th anniversary Speight’s Coast to Coast could be a year for firsts. Tomorrow also sees the start of the One Day race, which doubles as the World Multisport Champions, where Nelsonians Richard and Elina Ussher are favourites to become the first husband and wife to win in the same year.

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