Records Fall at 2017 Challenge Wanaka
It was a day of records at Challenge Wanaka with Dougal Allan well and truly confirming his rise in the sport of long distance triathlon. He not only smashed his own bike course record in 4:27:37 but also broke the long-standing course record in 8:26:38 beating Richard Ussher’s 2010 time by nearly nine minutes.
The women’s race was almost a repeat of last year with an on-going battle between the Flying Dutchwoman, Yvonne van Vlerken, and Brit Laura Siddall. In the end it was van Vlerken who was victorious with another new course record in 9:15:44 but she had to work for it, Siddall was chasing her all the way and finished just 27 seconds behind.
The day started off with a millpond lake and young up-and-coming New Zealander, Mike Phillips, leading 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 put the hammer down and blew the field apart on the bike’s second lap at the 135km mark. From there Allan made the most of his hometown advantage, continuing to increase his lead with the only real challenge coming from Phillips.
Phillips had an outstanding race on debut in the 226km distance, finishing in second in 8:32:00. Luke Bell came in third, crossing the line with his daughter Matilda in 8:42:50.
“I knew I was going to suffer and suffer I did!” said Allan on finishing. “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!”
In the women’s race, Emma Bilham (SUI) took control early and had a sizeable lead out of the swim in 54:32, 3:37 ahead of Siddall. 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.
They 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 create a gap between the two and that lasted for the first 15km. Van Vlerken 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 coursed record with van Vlerken setting a new benchmark in 9:16:11 with Siddall only 27 seconds behind. Emma Bilham rounded out the podium 14:55 behind in 9:30:39.
The next three women all redeemed their Wanaka demons, Alyssa Godesky (USA) took fourth after her concussion-causing crash last year, Simone Maier (GER) took fifth after her broken ribs last year and Tamsyn Hayes (NZL), while sick last year, also had bad luck this year with a flat which cost her two places, finishing in sixth.
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