Competing on home turf Kiwi pro Dougal Allan won Challenge Wanaka at the weekend in a new course record of 8:26:38, beating Richard Ussher’s 2010 time by nearly nine minutes.
Up-and-coming New Zealander, Mike Phillips led out of the water in 50:21, neck and neck with veteran Kiwi, Bryan Rhodes. Simon Cochrane (NZL), Luke Bell (AUS) and Per Bittner (GER) were all within 10 seconds, while Allan posted a 54.32 in eighth.
Rhodes, Phillips and Bell dominated the first 30km of the bike, but behind them McKenzie and Allan were showing their form as two of the sport’s strongest bikers. By 70km, McKenzie had taken the lead, setting the pace with Bell and Phillips after Rhodes had a mechanical at the Red Bridge.
And that’s the way it stayed until Allan made his move on the bike’s second lap at the 135km mark. From there Allan continued to increase his lead with the only real challenge coming from Phillips. He also smashed his own bike course record in 4:27:37. Phillips finished in second in 8:32:00, while Luke Bell came in third.
“I knew I was going to suffer and suffer I did!” said Allan. “I was really pleased with my swim and it gave me a bit of leeway on the bike, which was good as I didn’t want to go too hard on the first lap. I knew the course record would go today, and that’s not me being arrogant but the calibre of athletes was just exceptional and the conditions were perfect and I was just lucky it was me.
“I knew Mike was going to be hard to beat. The gap between us was not comfortable on the first lap of the run and I just had to trust my experience. He was the underdog and no-one was talking about him before the race except me. He’s going to be a lot more dangerous next year!”
Like last year the battle for the women’s race was between Dutchwoman Yvonne van Vlerken, and Brit Laura Siddall, but in the end it would prove van Vlerken’s day, winning in a new course record of 9:15:44. Siddall was chasing her all the way and finished just 27 seconds behind.
Emma Bilham (SUI) led out of the swim in 54:32, 3:37 ahead of Siddall in second, but it wasn’t long before the two strongest bike riders in the race, Siddall and van Vlerken, were pushing the pace and taking the lead at the 55km mark.
The two continually fought each other for the lead while increasing the gap to Bilham in third to over 16 minutes by T2. Siddall posted a new bike course record of 4:58:58 in the process.
Siddall was the first one to set the pace on the run and created a gap between the two that lasted for the first 15km. Van Vlerken then overtook her but didn’t get more than a 1:40 lead. Siddall whittled her down in the second half the run to just seconds at the finish line. Both athletes broke the previous course record with van Vlerken setting a new benchmark in 9:16:11. Emma Bilham rounded out the podium 14:55 behind in 9:30:39.