Perfectly warm and still conditions greeted athletes at Challenge Wanaka last weekend, with New Zealand athletes Dylan McNeice and Gina Crawford picking up their third and sixth victories respectively in the beautiful Southern Alps.
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The men’s race was much closer than 2014 however, with local athlete Dougal Allen pushing hard all the way. McNeice completed the 3.8km swim in a new course record 45:33mins, but Allen rode a sensational bike leg of 4:30:50, smashing Richard Ussher’s 2010 record by almost 12mins to claw back a lot of the ground he lost in the swim. It wasn’t enough however to catch McNeice, who won in 8:37:14.
“It was a lot harder than last year,” said McNeice afterwards. “Dougal rode so well and I honestly thought he was going to catch me. He pushed me and I ran that first lap [on the run] too hard. I really felt it in the last 15km but I think that got me the title so it was worth the risk.”
In the women’s race, Crawford was totally dominant despite facing a record number of pro athletes. Exiting the swim in 50:55mins among a group of pro men, she maintained a lead of between five and seven minutes during the 180km bike leg and completed the marathon run 11:55mins ahead of Laura Siddall (GBR) and 20:25mins ahead of Michelle Bremer (NZL).
Siddall made her mark in only her second long distance triathlon after turning pro last year. Wanaka’s German pro, Simone Maier has been a consistent performer in recent years and finished today’s race just off the podium in fourth.
“It’s always a tough race here but the crowds are fantastic,” said Crawford afterwards. “I find it difficult leading, I really love chasing when it’s easier to keep focused and motivated. When you’re out front you don’t know what’s happening behind you.”