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Defending Champions Lead Stellar Start List

Defending Champions Lead Stellar Start List

The 2013 Speight’s Coast to Coast is shaping up as one of the toughest fought ever as winners and runners up from the last three years take to the start line again.

Centre stage on the Kumara Beach start line on February 9 will be defending champions Richard and Elina Ussher, who in 2012 became the first married couple to win the Speight’s Coast to Coast in the same year.

While Elina had entered a couple of months ago, Richard had been unsure of attempting his sixth Speight’s Coast to Coast title. He had finished 2012 drained following a tough year on the international circuit and only decided to line up for the world title race after New Year.

With a growing group of young pretenders to his thrown, Ussher might be worried ahead of this year’s race. But his competition hasn’t all had ideal build up’s either.

Wanaka’s Dougal Allan, the Speight’s Coast to Coast runner up for the past three years, has been battling a wrist injury. The much anticipated comeback of Christchurch’s Luke Vaughan has been hampered by a shin injury that required stitches, and Wellington’s James Coubrough (4th last year) has withdrawn completely after breaking his ankle on a training run across Goat Pass at New Year.

While Elina Ussher’s build up has gone somewhat better than her husband’s, she faces one of the most competitive female fields the Speight’s Coast to Coast has ever seen.

The rematch between Elina Ussher and Sophie Hart will be the most anticipated battle of this year’s event, and the fact that both are based in Nelson just lends to the intensity.

Ussher won the 2010 and 2012 events, but Hart beat her in 2011 with the second fastest time ever recorded. In an epic battle she beat Ussher by nine minutes and missed Andrea Murray’s 1997 race record by just 65 seconds. Then in 2012 Hart went on to win the adventure racing world title, so her return to the 2013 Speight’s Coast to Coast is much anticipated.

Both women, however, will need to be wary of athletes as good as Auckland’s Louise Mark (2nd in 2010, 4th in 2011), Taumarunui’s Rachel Cashin (3rd in five of the last 8 years), Christchurch-based Swede Sia Svendsen (two-time winner of the teams event), Hokitika’s Tanya Maitland (7th in 2012, 9th in 2011) and Brazilian Camila Nicolau (6th in 2012, 8th in 2011).

As well as favourites, at age 36 both Elina and Richard Ussher are among the eldest contenders. This may prove either an advantage or a handicap. While youth usually favours speed, age brings experience. Richard has missed the event only three time since 2000 while Elina has raced every year since 2006.

The 31st Speight’s Coast to Coast is scheduled for February 8-9. Racing starts on Kumara Beach, midway between Hokitika and Greymouth, and finishes 243k later on Sumner Beach in Christchurch.

The feature Multisport World Championship is contested on Saturday February 9, with almost 150 entrants taking on the 3k run, 55k road cycle, 34k mountain run, 15k cycle, 67k white water kayak and 70k cycle in one day.

The Two Day race starts on February 8 with the cycle and mountain run, then concludes on February 9 with the cycle, kayak and cycle sections.

Race director Robin Judkins expects just over 600 entrants for what is the longest running multisport race in the world.


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