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Roxburgh Rookie Grabs Lead In Coast To Coast

Friday 4 February 2000


Roxburgh rookie Rowena Jeffrey grabbed the unexpected lead after the first day of the two-day individual women in the Speights Coast to Coast today.

The 39-year-old orchardist recovered after becoming stuck between boulders to grab a commanding lead in her first attempt at the 238km multisport race from Kumara beach on the West C1oast to Sumner beach near Christchurch.

Jeffrey, with a background in roadrunning and a handful of triathlons, surprised herself with the lead on the first day after the 58km cycle from Kumara to Deception Footbridge and 26km mountain run over the Southern Alps in New Zealand's leading multisport event.

``I was exhausted and fell down and was lodged between two boulders. Some wonderful men saved me and pulled me out and I followed them the rest of the way on the run,'' Jeffrey said.

``I'm very surprised. I'm just hoping to finish ... I haven't finished yet though," said Jeffrey who holds a healthy lead from Wellington's Megan Kennedy and Auckland veteran Ann Mortimer.

A record field braved cold conditions, down to 5 degrees C at the 900m summit at Goat Pass on the first day with five-time one-day winner Steve Gurney opting out of the two-day race. The Christchurch multisport legend had hoped to complete both two-day and one-day events but yesterday opted for the one-day event which starts at 6am tomorrow (Saturday).

Fellow Cantabrian Jeff Mitchell takes a 14 minute advantage into the second day of the individual men's race, biking strongly with the lead pack and recorded a slick 3hr 9min 12sec run.

Mitchell, who finished second in the one-day event in 1992 when poor weather reduced the race to a duathlon, has been competing in international eco-challenge events in recent years.

``I've done the longest day five times but this is my first attempt at the two-day. I'm getting a bit older,'' the 37-year-old said.

Alexander's Dale Butcher produced a storming run to push through to second on the line from Upper Hutt's Murray Doughty.

The eye-catching display came from Christchurch brothers Graeme and Mike Causer in the two-day teams event, with a near record run despite reasonably high river levels in the Mingha valley.

Graeme Causer was second off the bike before younger brother Mike scorched over the mountain in 2hr 43min 27sec, just 21 seconds outside the two-day run record set by Christchurch legend Keith Murray, who also holds the overall one-day race record.
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His outstanding run was no fluke. Causer spent eight hours of run trials over various possible courses with his father before deciding on an alternative route along the river bed to Klondyke Corner.

``Most people run really fast when they check out the run course and don't actually learn anything.''

Causer, a doctor who has returned from a stint in the United Kingdom, is no newcomer to the Speights Coast to Coast. He won the two-day individual title in 1996 and the two-day team event with brother Graeme in 1993.

The team event is expected to be fiercely contested with the Causer brothers holding a 13 minute advantage over two other Christchurch combinations Paul Massie/ Heath De Garnham and Aaron Pringle/Blair Stuthridge.

Hokitika's Mary Anne Thorpe and Duncan Hamilton are fourth, and the leading mixed team ahead of the youngest of the famed Christchurch family, Aaron and Lara Prince.

The 18 year old Lara Prince, in her first attempt at the race, impressed with a superb 3hr 26min 47sec mountain run and will have the advantage of brother Aaron's considerable paddling prowess in tomorrow's 67km kayak down the Waimakariri River.

Silver Fern Lesley Nicol enjoyed her first attempt at the event, lying in seventh in the mixed teams with boyfriend Chris Rumball of Nelson.

``I enjoyed the challenge but it was a real gutbuster. I hit the wall on the run but the scenery was just wonderful,'' Nicol said.

``It was something completely different to netball.''

The two-day competitors complete the kayak and 70km cycle to Sumner from 7am, while the one-day competitors set off at dawn from Kumara Beach in what is expected to be one of the closest fought battles in several years.


For more information please contact:
Kirstan McPherson
Speight's Public Relations
Tel: (025) 301-968

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