Over 3,500 competitors were treated to a perfect Queenstown Lakes District day for the 13th hosting of the Macpac Motatapu, New Zealand’s iconic one day multi-sport race with walkers, runners, triathletes and mountain bikers competing in a variety of races from the 15km Miners Trail, to the 51km Ultra-Run.
In the feature SKODA Mountain Bike race, Kate Fluker (Queenstown) was imperious as the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games hopeful won for a 6th time in succession, backing up her runner-up finish at the Mountain Bike Nationals a week ago, while Tim Rush (Oamaru) emerged quickest in a fiercely fought men’s race, just edging road professional Hayden McCormick (Te Awamutu) and Pioneer winner James Williamson (Alexandra).
Fluker was delighted with her performance on a course that she loves.
“That was awesome, I didn’t know what to expect this year after a hard week last week at Nationals but I am just so happy to be back on one of my favourite trails. It was fun, early on everyone went around the river and I knew there was a track around the side, and everyone behind me was shouting ‘thanks Kate’ for taking them the quickest way!
“It is amazing though, I love this atmosphere here and this was my introduction to mountain biking, this is what it is all about, everyone sharing in a great race and encouraging each other along the way, I love it.”
The men’s race was a much closer affair, with Rush only going clear of his main rivals in the closing kilometres.
“That was close early on, Jimmy ripped it up early on and then Hayden came over and we rode together through the valley into a tough headwind. I was lucky with the river crossings and managed to ride most of them, my boss put me up while we are here and he said to commit and go full gas and see how you go. But it was a bit of the luck of the draw, I think we were all as strong as each other out there and it was great to ride with those guys, they are great pro’s.”
Multiple world and Olympic medal winning rowers Mahe Drysdale and Nathan Cohen might have entered for fun, but they showed just how competitive they are with a win in the new team category in the SKODA Mountain Bike, covering the 47km in an impressive 2:50:59.
“We probably did well, unexpectedly so,” said Cohen. “We got a pretty good rhythm, with the teams off at the front we had the course on our own for bit, we probably got in the way of the elite guys for a while, but it was nice to get out there and enjoy it.”
“We suffered across the top a little and I was pleased to get to the descent I was pretty happy,” said Drysdale. “But some of those rivers the legs were pretty much done and I struggled to get through. The last bit on the flat was our meat and bread, we pumped it along and I followed behind Nathan which was great.
“Cohen said to me at the start ‘this is your first session with Tokyo in mind’, so it was a good way to start and good to go in that hurt zone again and feel what it is like. I don’t mind going there though which is a good sign with Tokyo about three and a half years away.”
The Ultra-Run was taken out by Majell Backhausen (Australia), who for some time was threatening Charlie Sharpe’s 2016 race record of 6:15:15, before crossing the line just under 12 minutes outside that time. The women’s record was smashed though, with Australian star Lucy Bartholomew cutting over an hour off the previous record held by Ayako Nakazawa (Japan).
Backhausen was glowing in his praise of the race and the course as he finished a month-long visit to New Zealand.
“I had a really fun day, a great morning – every morning is good if you are having twelve gels for breakfast! This course is really really good, it is beautiful, very scenic and great mountain terrain. It forms an important part of an important track in New Zealand and to be able run it supported is really special, to cover that 51km with that support in this part of the world is something everyone should be a part of at some point in their life. It is a challenge, the course has some tough terrain but at the same time the scenery and the environment you are in make it that much more attainable, you can take the mind off the pain in the legs by looking up and taking in the views.”
20-year-old Bartholomew was thrilled with her day and like Backhausen, high in her praise of the race and course.
“I loved every minute of it, it was spectacular, I can’t wait to come back. It is rare to have a single track that runs for so long, the river crossings were nice and it was a lot of fun to join the mountain bike riders at the end, they were cheering me and so supportive, so it was fun.
“I have run all around the world, I thought this was just amazing, well organized, beautiful course, very challenging and definitely a reason to come here.”
Olympic Triathlon gold medalist Hamish Carter and his team mate Alistair Grigg completed the Ultra course in a tick over ten hours.
Dougal Allan showed that he had well and truly overcome the effects of his record breaking performance at Challenge Wanaka a fortnight ago, taking out the UDC Finance XTERRA Triathlon in a time of 4:09:27
“It was tough, I am not conditioned to the mountains at the moment. But I came here because I wanted a good adventure and this is what I used to do, and I still love it. Last week I still couldn’t really walk so I didn’t think I would race, but on about Wednesday I loosened up and knew I would be okay. Today was about having fun though and the win is a bonus. I had a cushion into the final descent over Olly, and thought I could run it softly, but there is no such thing as running an event like this softly!
Former Nelson Girls High student Josie Wilcox was a surprising but impressive winner of the women’s race, usurping pre-ace favourites Julia Grant and Martina Fellman to take out the win on her first attempt at the iconic event, finishing almost five minutes in front of Mary Gray.
Having returned from a running scholarship in the States in 2014, Wilcox has spent some time on the mountain bike and might have found her niche after an impressive showing.
“This is my first time here so I am very pleased. I started towards the middle of the field in the swim and gave up about five minutes in the technical area on the bike but made up ground on the hills and then on the run – I knew I could do that on the run, that is my strength.”
Ryan Carr and Tania McWilliams were popular winners of the Miners Trail, with Carr in particular typifying the Kiwi spirit on this event as the Queenstown Shepherd highlighted at prize giving that the 15km run was only part of an exciting day.
“That was great, I am a Shepherd by day, so I guess I am used to the conditions, that is almost like a normal day’s work for me, only a little faster than I might usually move. I am heading away this afternoon now for a bit of pig hunting.”
The Off-Road Marathon titles were won by Robert Rawles (New Plymouth) and Tanya Copeland (Tuatapere), both taking line honours by comfortable margins in the increasing heat of the day at Arrowtown.
Glendu Bay to Arrowtown
Results (full results CLICK HERE)
SKODA Mountain Bike, 47km
Miners Trail, 15km
UDC Finance XTERRA Triathlon, 2km swim, 47km mountain bike, 15km run
Off-Road Marathon, 42km
MOTATAPU BY THE NUMBERS:
TOTAL = 3,360
Biggest representation from a region - Canterbury = 39% (1,338)
Overseas representation = 11.5% (378) from 23 countries
NEW THIS YEAR:
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