If there was a show of hands amongst the 3,500 competitors at the Macpac Motatapu for those that have won Olympic Games medals, it would have been an exclusive club of not many, but for rowers Mahe Drysdale and Nathan Cohen, triathlete Hamish Carter and cyclist Hayden Roulston they loved very moment of their involvement in this iconic event.
As is often the case with elite athletes (former or current), their ‘competition button’ can be a tough one to switch off, and so it was with Drysdale and Cohen as the pair won the inaugural team category in the SKODA Mountain Bike.
“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.
“I was certainly a chicane for the other riders early on! 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.”
Cohen was impressed with the effort of Drysdale, who is part way through his rowing sabbatical after winning gold in Rio.
“He rode pretty well and once we got to the downhill that is when the extra kilos helped a little, it was a matter of getting up those sharp pinches, I reckon we might have been the heaviest team out there but once we got to the top we weren’t too bad.”
Roulston retired from top level cycling in 2016, but couldn’t resist the chance to ride in an iconic event that he has never been able to fit into his training and racing schedule.
“That was an amazing event, SKODA, Macpac and the organisers, everyone has put on an amazing event with so many people being testament to that and I am just happy to be invited down. The training is the same whether it is mountain or road, you still have to pedal. The top road guys are doing mountain bike riding and the same applies the other way around.”
Carter took on the Ultra-Run with good friend Alistair Grigg, covering the grueling 51km through the Motatapu Valley from Glendhu Bay to Arrowtown in a tick over ten hours.
“That is the longest day I have ever done, that is pretty long. There is real satisfaction though at having achieved that. I didn’t really know what to expect, but after that first climb and then the descent I just though wow, this is going to be hard. But it is spectacular and you are just thinking how lucky am I to be able to do this, you are just up there on your own with your water and your back pack and that is all you have got.
“It is so tough to prepare, I thought it would be a lot easier, we were aiming for about seven to eight hours and we are two hours over that and we are pretty tired now, but it is cool, I loved it. It just blows your mind, even when you are knackered and can’t really comprehend what is going on, you are still looking up and saying look at this place. The mistake I made was doing a whole lot of running for this event and there is not much running in it!
“It was neat to share with Alistair, doing it on your own would be amazing, but it is nice to share with someone.”
It was a family affair for the Carter’s and Grigg’s with wives Marissa and Anna enjoying the 15km Miners Trail while taking the chance to enjoy a weekend away in a stunning region with so much to offer beyond the event itself, with the likes of the Gibbston Valley Winery and many tourist attractions boosted by the influx of visitors.
Others to take part in the event today included New Zealand’s WRC Rally star Hayden Paddon (second place in the open 19 to 29 men’s category), Newshub newsreader Mike McRoberts (off-road marathon), and Newstalk ZB broadcast journalist and host Rachel Smalley.