Juddy’s Top 10 Predictions
February 14-15, 2014
Robin Judkins has spent more than three decades organising New Zealand’s favourite race. The Speight’s Coast to Coast created adventure sports and most of the world’s best have cut their teeth in the 243k world multisport championship race across New Zealand’s South Island. Judkins has watched them all and his annual “Top 10” predictions have become something of a book-maker’s must-have come race day.
In 2013 Wanaka’s Braden Currie was a surprise winner of the Speight’s Coast to Coast, beating five-time champion Richard Ussher. Both men are returning this week, but despite Currie being the defending champion, Robin Judkins thinks Ussher is the favourite.
“He’s a five-time champion and he’s the most experienced contender,” says Judkins. “Braden beat him last year, but that will have only made Richard more determined to win again.”
Indeed, if Richard Ussher can recapture the form that won him the Speight’s Coast to Coast in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2012, he will be hard to beat. But Judkins also warns against Coast to Coast complacency, saying, “Richard learned that the hard way last year.”
“I think Braden surprised him by attacking so early on the run. Richard never saw him again until the finish line, but I doubt he’ll let that happen again.”
It’s likely that Currie will try the same tactic this year and it’s equally likely that Ussher won’t allow him as much rope. But the defending champion has a couple of advantages up his sleeve.
At age 27, Braden Currie was just starting secondary school when Richard Ussher gave away Olympic-level skiing to dominate the multisport and adventure racing world. But at age 37 his best may be behind him, while Currie is definitely an athlete on the rise. In October last year he finished fifth in the Xterra off road triathlon world champs in Hawaii, which is better than Ussher ever managed in that race.
“It is an interesting contrast,” says Judkins. “Richard has the most experience and is still competing at the top level. But Braden is a guy on the rise and arguably getting better results than Richard did at the same age. He was 26 when he won last year. Richard was 27 when he won his first title in 2005.”
Another interesting dynamic to this year’s Speight’s Coast to Coast is the entry of Braden Currie’s elder brother, Glen (31), who finished third in 2011 behind Ussher’s fourth win. In what has always been one of the most individualistic of sports, the brothers could form a formidable duo with several tactical options.
“We saw last year when Braden won that his biggest influence and happiest supporter was Glen. So you would expect them to support each other during the race, which could make it tough for Richard.”
Judkins warns, however, that the race has more than just three men in it. And that while the three favourites are trying to break each other there are half a dozen athletes capable of picking up the pieces.
Others expected to challenge include Nelson’s Trevor Voyce (2nd in 2009, 6th in 2010 and 5th last year) and Wairoa’s Sam Manson, who as a 22 year old rookie finished 10th last year. This year’s rookie to watch is Hastings’ Luke Osborne (29), who won Wellington’s Hutt City Crazyman last year and has some solid adventure racing credentials.
Watch out too for three international dark horses. Like Ussher, 25 year old Aussie, Alex Houghton, mixes triathlon and multisport successfully, having won his age group in Ironman Asia Pacific and the overall title in Victoria’s King Valley Challenge. Christchurch-based Brazilian Flavio Vianna (33) finished 12th in his first attempt last year and Swedish-based American Scott Cole (36) was 20th last year but has been training in Christchurch since November and recently won Greymouth’s Mountain Man Multisport Race.
Like the men, the women’s race is shaping up as a race of experience versus youth. Elina Ussher is the most experienced contender, but the 2010 and 2012 champion faces the fastest improving woman in the sport right now in Wanaka DOC ranger Jess Simson.
Simson (29) dominated last year’s Two Day race as her first taste of the Speight’s Coast to Coast, breaking the record and recording a time very similar to One Day winner Sophie Hart. Hart is not racing this year and Ussher, who was second, says she is in better form after putting some health and injury problems behind her.
Robin Judkins considers Ussher the favourite for a third title. “Elina has won the Speight’s Coast to Coast twice,” says Judkins, “but she also has five other top-five placings. So she’s super consistent and having raced here since 2006, she’s the most experienced woman. That’s a hard combination to beat.”
Both Ussher and Simson are run specialists, so the race is likely to be decided by who has the best weakest discipline. But watch too for the all round strengths of Auckland’s 36 year old Louise Mark, who was second in 2010 and fourth in 2011 and was a close second to Ussher in the Bay of Plenty’s Motu Challenge last October.
The 32nd Speight’s Coast to Coast is scheduled for February 14 and 15 and will mark the 25th year of the event’s iconic Speight’s sponsorship.
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 15, with almost 130 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 Friday 14 February with the cycle and mountain run, then concludes on Saturday 15 February with the cycle, kayak and cycle sections.
The event has attracted almost 600 entrants for what is the longest running multisport race in the world.
For more info see: www.coasttocoast.co.nz.
Robin Judkins Top 10 Predictions – phone numbers on the entry list attached
1 Richard Ussher Nelson
2 Braden Currie Wanaka
3 Glen Currie Methven
4 Trevor Voyce Nelson
5 Luke Osborne Hastings
6 Sam Manson Wairoa
7 Scott Cole USA
8 Flavio Vianna Brazil
9 Angus Watson Christchurch
10 Daniel Busch Nelson
1 Elina Ussher Nelson/Finland
2 Jesse Simson Wanaka
3 Louise Mark Auckland
4 Emily Wilson Cambridge
5 Anyika Thomsen Waipukurau
6 Jo Turnbull Christchurch
7 Sally Overton Christchurch
8 Kim Daubney England
9 Ruth Tramscheck Scotland
10 Toni Keeling Auckland