Some wild weather came through the South Island of New Zealand on Saturday making for some tricky conditions for both racers and organizers at the XTERRA Motatapu off-road triathlon.
With heavy rain the morning of the race, the course was muddier and wetter than previous years, which appealed to many competitors citing “the challenging and brutal course” a great personal challenge.
Throughout the day organizers with a team of officials experienced in local rivers, monitored the rising river levels as the morning rain flushed down the valleys.
Near midday, high river levels meant it was unsafe for competitors to continue crossing the last river on the course. As a result, and for the continued safety of all competitors, a course diversion was put in place 2km up the Arrow River which meant competitors completed two different routes on the day.
Wanaka triathlete Dougal Allan backed up a strong performance in Challenge Wanaka just two weeks ago to come in first place, edging 24-year-old Oliver Shaw with a time of 4:27:41.
“Yea it was a tough day out there!” exclaimed Shaw, who took the runner-up spot for the second straight year. “The conditions were brutal. Some of the worst I have raced in with single digit temperatures and heavy rain making for a very slow and hard race! For a comparison to last year, I think the everyone averaged around 30 minutes or more slower this time around. The organizers do a great job of informing people that you are racing in an alpine environment and this year everyone saw firsthand just how fast things can change up there. The rivers rose dramatically making for some exciting and technical river crossings! It was also noticeable how much they had risen from when we crossed them on the bike, compared to the end of the run where they would have been at least 50cm deeper!
I had a tough day out there. It’s always interesting racing in cold conditions and personally I didn’t feel my hands or feet until I got to the run! I had a great swim to get a lead on the rest of the field but the storming Dougal Allan caught me on the bike and flew past. I managed to stay close and just trail him into T2. We stayed really close for the first 15 minutes of the run but when we reached the technical track Dougal took off and I wasn’t able to follow, being a bit restricted with the movement in my hip. Dougal was having a great run though and comfortably took the win. I managed to hold onto 2nd and come across the line feeling relieved to have crossed the line after the long and tough race!”
Competing in his first Motatapu XTERRA– he’s done the Speight’s Mountain Bike race twice – Allan said he was feeling pretty fit coming into the race, despite two big races in recent weeks.
“It was a fantastic race. I was really happy with my swim, but then the bike and run felt a little hard and I was always looking for Oliver to pass me. But then I thought, do you know what, do you want another 2nd or 3rd placing or do you want to win this,” said Allan. “This is a really great race and with today’s weather, people are even more jubilant coming across the finish line. Full credit to everyone out there today, just getting to the finish line is a huge achievement.”
Taking out the female elite title in the XTERRA UDC Triathlon, Wanaka locals Simone Maier and Jess Simson made a pact half way through the 47km mountain bike ride that they’d “finish the race together.”
Both athletes competed in the Motatapu off the back of strong performances in Challenge Wanaka and the Coast to Coast and both admitted to “feeling a little tired.” The duo crossed the line with a skip and a hop to finish neck and neck with a joint first place time of 5:32:36 – the first time in race history there has been a joint winner.
“The conditions weren’t that bad,” said Maier. “I was expecting a lot worse but it was fine, I was just feeling tired after Challenge and also lack of sleep watching my friends compete in Godzone this week. So it was nice that Jess and I could sit back and chat on the ride.”
Coast to Coast winner Jess Simson competed in the XTERRA UDC Triathlon for the first time and said it was “really cool to finish first equal”.
“We were both feeling like sacks in this event,” said Simson. “Normally we can blitz this sort of thing but we know our bodies are tired. We’re both really proud because we’ve both done some big efforts lately and to be able to come and do this in a decent time is sweet. We’re happy.”
“It was quite muddy on the bike and the run was a bit slippery, but the swim was nice being calm and the water was warm. There’s something quite cool about going from Wanaka to Arrowtown under your own steam. Normally you drive that. The Motatapu valley is extremely typical of Central Otago, it’s quite beautiful.”