Sam Osborne and Jacqui Allen defended their elite titles at the 16th annual XTERRA New Zealand Championship race in Rotorua on Saturday.
In the men’s race Osborne came out of the water on the heels of Ben Allen and Hayden Wilde, and “the fight for the first trail on the bike was a right-out brawl,” said Osborne.
Allen won the first exchange, but it was all Osborne shortly after.
“I saw an opportunity early on, maybe 2km in and decided to jump him and roll the dice,” said Osborne, the reigning XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour Champion who grew up right here in Rotorua. “I saw a small gap open after a couple of corners and decided to just go flatbox and see what I could do with it.”
By the top of the first climb Osborne had put one-minute on the chase pack and then it was all business as he carved through the twisting trails of his backyard.
“I had some super smooth runs down there and I knew that no one would have been able to ride those any faster,” he said knowingly.
By the bike-to-run transition Osborne had more than two-minutes on Olly Shaw who was riding in second.
“From there I really just found a good rhythm to the end and was able to enjoy the moment coming out onto the beach with everyone to the finish,” said Osborne. “Feels bloody brilliant to nail it today. Last year was amazing, but to defend at home feels absolutely incredible.”
Shaw, another Rotorua superstar, put together his best XTERRA in years to take the runner-up spot.
“It was an awesome day and it was great to be back up on the podium after a couple of years of disappointing performances at home,” said Shaw. “I had a solid all-round day. I managed to hold onto the chase pack in the swim trailing Allen, Wilde and Osborne by around 30 seconds. Out onto the bike and I rode with Lewis Ryan for the first section before managing to get away and set about chasing the leading trio. I was able to pull back Hayden and Ben in the first two single track descents and from there I just focused on riding smooth and trying to get as much of a gap as possible for the run, as I know they are both great runners. Out onto the run things got a little bit ugly after what was a very hard bike. I felt like I was battling for every meter, but I managed to hang onto second and grab a podium spot. It's my best finish at XTERRA NZ after three previous third places which is quite satisfying.”
Kieran McPherson, who just returned to New Zealand after an early season trip to South America where he won XTERRA Argentina and placed second at XTERRA Chile, edged Allen for third by just 20 seconds. Hayden Wilde rounded out the top five, and of note, Lewis Ryan placed sixth in his elite debut.
TOP 8 ELITE MEN
1. Sam Osborne, NZL - 2:04:03
2. Olly Shaw, NZL - 2:08:50
3. Kieran McPherson, NZL - 2:10:30
4. Ben Allen, AUS - 2:10:50
5. Hayden Wilde, NZL - 2:11:41
6. Lewis Ryan, NZL - 2:15:32
7. Alex Roberts, NZL - 2:19:58
8. Rodney Bell, AUS - 2:35:29
In the women’s race it was Jacqui Allen out front all day, but not by much.
“What a race. I had to bring my A game today,” said Allen. “I knew I needed an almost perfect race to be on the top step, so I swam and biked as hard as I could to get a lead going into the run. When your leading it’s hard to know what’s going on behind and how close the girls were but coming through the 2nd lap on the run I got a time split and had only 30 seconds, so I had to make sure I kept the pressure on through to the finish line.”
Behind Allen, Kiwi Samantha Kingsford and Hannah Wells were charging hard, but settled for second and third in the end.
“It was a wicked day out there and massive well done to all that raced,” said Allen, who won her third NZL title today (she picked up her first in 2012). “I love it here because the racing is close, and a small mistake could be very costly, so it makes for an exciting day. All in all, I’m super happy with where I’m at and looking forward to challenging for the top step in the next few XTERRA races.
XTERRA New Zealand was the first of four races on the 2018 XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour. The next stop is in the Philippines for the one-day XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship race in Danao on April 22, followed by XTERRA Tahiti in Moorea on May 11, and concluding with XTERRA Albay (Philippines) on June 17.
Learn more at xterraasiapacific.com.
TOP 7 ELITE WOMEN
1. Jacqui Allen, AUS - 2:31:30
2. Samantha Kingsford, NZL - 2:33:00
3. Hannah Wells, NZL - 2:34:24
4. Penny Slater, AUS - 2:37:20
5. Deborah Lynch, NZL - 2:37:47
6. Lydia Hale, NZL - 2:41:35
7. Leela Hancox, NZL - 2:47:39
XTERRA NEW ZEALAND ALL-TIME ELITE WINNERS
Year - Men - Women
2003 - Sam Mallard - Evelyn Willamson
2004 - Hamish Carter - Sonia Foote
2005 - Hamish Carter - Sonia Foote
2006 - Hamish Carter - Gina Ferguson
2007 - Tim Wilding - Gina Ferguson
2008 - Terenzo Bozzone - Sonia Foote
2009 - Richard Ussher - Nicola Leary
2010 - Scott Thorne - Nicola Leary
2011 - Richard Ussher - Karen Hanlen
2012 - Ben Allen - Jacqui Slack
2013 - Ben Allen - Renata Bucher
2014 - Conrad Stoltz - Barbara Riveros
2015 - Braden Currie - Suzie Snyder
2016 - Braden Currie - Lizzie Orchard
2017 - Sam Osborne - Jacqui Allen
2018 - Sam Osborne - Jacqui Allen
Photos / Complete Results
Photos courtesy ScottieTPhoto