Allen, Slack win XTERRA New Zealand Championship
Rotorua, New Zealand - International couple, Ben Allen (Australia) and his partner, Jacqui Slack (Great Britain), celebrated wins at the 10th annual XTERRA New Zealand Championship today.
It was perfect race conditions that greeted more than 2,000 participants as they descended on the Blue Lake, a crowd which included some of New Zealand’s best multisport athletes, all looking to take out the title, only to have their challenges thwarted by the overseas visitors.
It is Allen’s fourth win in a row on the XTERRA World Tour, having recently taken out wins at XTERRA Championships in Guam, Philippines and Saipan last month.
However, it was no easy win with New Zealand triathlon representative, Graham O’Grady (Kinloch), leading out of the 1km swim leg by 30 seconds with Allen, a former Australian Surf Life Saving Champion, hot on his heels.
O’Grady, a road specialist, found the going tough early on the ride and the off-road experts hit the front with Scott Thorne (Hamilton) and Allen tussling for position on the technical trails through the very scenic Redwood Forest.
Close behind them, the race to stay in medal contention was being played out between O’Grady, Mark Leishman (Rotorua) and Jan Francke (Czech Republic). Half way through the 26km ride it was Thorne who put the hammer down, opening up a gap over his trans-Tasman rival, and it paid off with Thorne leading heading onto the run by 1 minute.
However, a calf injury that nearly ruled Thorne out of the race entirely, took its toll and before half way round the 11km course, Allan had the lead back and was putting time into all but one of his competitors. It was O’Grady, who, after a tough mountain bike ran himself from fourth to second place. Thorne held on for third.
“I was running scared, I knew Graham was a great runner, I had to push it hard the entire race.” explained an elated Allen after the race. “This is a special race to win, I was here last year and got fourth but I loved it, it is one of the best races in the world. I had to come back with Jacqui and I’m so pleased I did, we couldn’t have asked for a better result today.”
Slack had things more her own way in the women’s race, leading the field from start to finish and taking the title by 5 minutes.
“I didn’t know the girls I was racing against very well, so I just had to go as fast as I could for the whole race. Fortunately it was enough to hold on for the win.”
The race for silver and bronze was very close with only two minutes separating second through fourth place. NZ Mountain Biking representative, Anika Smail (Nelson), improved her fourth place from last year to take second this year, while Elizabeth Orchard (Auckland) repeated her bronze medal performance from 2011.
Earlier in the day hundreds of other participants took part in an 11km or 21km run and walk as well as a Mountain Bike race, all events taking place around the stunning Blue and Green Lakes in Rotorua.
The Paymark XTERRA Rotorua Festival annually hosts more than 2,000 athletes in what is considered the world's largest single day XTERRA off-road triathlon festival, with competitors choosing their challenge from walking, running, mountain biking as well as the individual and team XTERRA triathlon events.
1km Swim, 26km Mountain Bike, 11km Run
IMAGE CREDIT: John Cowpland
Next on the XTERRA World Tour: The XTERRA New Zealand Championship was the fifth world tour event. Next up is the ITU Cross Tri World Championship/XTERRA Southeast Championship race in Shelby County, Alabama on May 19. On May 27, the XTERRA European Tour gets underway in Italy.
Feb 26 XTERRA South Africa Championship, Grabouw, Western Cape
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