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Tough introduction to Motu Challenge

Rennie happy to finish after mountain bike crash


GISBORNE’S Michelle Rennie introduced herself to the top New Zealand women multisport athletes on Saturday, finishing fourth in the open women and seventh female overall in her first Motu Challenge.

Having crashed on the mountain bike stage, Rennie said she was happy just to have finished the race. Cramp troubled her for the rest of the race and she hadn’t known whether she would be able to complete the three-kilometre run into Opotiki.

Despite this, Rennie finished less than two minutes from third place and just three minutes from second place in the open women’s category.

After holding a podium position over the first three stages with strong performances on the mountain bike, run and road bike, Rennie fell behind on the whitewater kayak, her least familiar discipline.

Despite conceding time and places on the water, she was still within six minutes of the three top veteran and open women who finished ahead of her.

“It was good to get that ticked off,” Rennie said.

“I’d never been in a boat (like this) until six months ago.”

Her time of 9 hours and 1 minute represented her longest period of continuous exercise, she said.

The former Olympic cyclist is training for next year’s Coast to Coast.

She said that despite not achieving the result she wanted in her first outing, crossing the finish line after battling through a tough crash was cause to celebrate.

Up front in the women’s race, it was one of the closer-run duels in Motu history.

Ali Wilson beat veteran Simone Maier by only 66 seconds after Maier trailed her for three-quarters of the race before catching her near the cycle-to-kayak transition.

Both were out on their own and cracked eight-hour race time while multiple long-time race champion Elina Ussher was a quarter-hour back in third and runner-up in the veteran category.

Wairoa-born Sam Manson continued his strong year in multisport, finishing second in the race he won three years ago.

Manson, who was chasing his second victory at Motu, was comfortably beaten by long-time rival Dougal Allan. Allan crushed the field from start to finish, leading every stage and finishing with a time of 6:58:48, well ahead of Manson’s 7:22:07 finish time.

Manson had to fight hard to stay clear of third-place finisher Bobby Dean, battling from behind in the second half of the event after a slow start to finish over six minutes clear of Dean.

Gisborne-based male athlete Tomas Kocar was also in the individual race, finishing 11th veteran and 40th male competitor overall with a time of 10:13.38.

Former Gisborne multisport athlete Tony More, now a chopper rescue paramedic in Taupo, finished seventh veteran and 25th male with a time of 9:17:34.

The Motu Challenge is raced over a body-sapping 172 kilometres of steep terrain, made up of 65km of Motu Road mountain biking, 17km of bush and gravel road run, 52km of road cycling including Trafford’s Hill, 27km of kayaking down the Waioeka River before a final 8km road ride and 3km run into Opotiki from the river.

Within the Motu Challenge are shorter multisport races, duathlon and bike race options, where Gisborne athletes have enjoyed success in the past.

In the teams’ race, the two-person team of Stephen Sheldrake and Louis McKenna combined in the Motu 160 (65 kilometres of mountain biking and 95 kilometres of road biking) to finish first in the male two-person teams category, winning by over 70 minutes with a time of 4:29:28.

Local triathlete Nan Baker finished as the second woman in the long-course duathlon. She finished the race, which shared the same mountain bike and run courses as the Motu Challenge and included an extra 90km road bike leg to Opotiki (no kayak leg), in a whisker under 9 hours.

Motu Challenge results —

Open individual male: Dougal Allan 1, Sam Manson 2, Bobby Dean 3.

Open individual female: Alison Wilson 1, Simone Maier 2, Elina Ussher 3.

Veteran individual male: Matt Backler 1, Blair Simpson 2, Matt Penney 3.

Veteran individual female: Simone Maier 1, Elina Ussher 2, Rachel Cashin 3.

School individual male: Campbell Gray 1, Bailey Fredericksen 2,

Classic individual male: Russell Smith 1, Peter O’Sullivan 2, Mike Scott 3.

Classic individual female: Tanja Lempriere 1.

Teams, male 2-person: Lysaght Masters 1, Matt & Stew 2, Goose’s Team 3.

Teams, male 3- or 4-person: Team CRM 1, Bottom of the Barrel 2, Hear4U — Men’s Mental Health Awareness & Suicide 3.

Teams mixed: Topsport Kayaking 1, Pedal Cartel — It’s on 2, The Big Dogs 3.

Teams female: Greta & Hannah 1, Glittering Unicorns 2, Just Doing It 3.

Motu short course, male: Mark Jones 1, Darryl Bell 2, Tim Taylor 3.

Short course, female: Megan Farndale 1, Monique Geroghty 2, Helen Thoday 3.

Short course, mixed: Topsport Duo 1.

Motu 160, male: Alex Heaney 1, Nicholas Kergozou 2, Jan Lichtwark 3.

Motu 160, female: Georgia Perry 1, Kelsi Parker 2.

Motu 160, teams male: Team McDrake 1, Franz and Mal 2, Old Rebels 3.

Motu 160, teams mixed: Rachel & Sean 1, No Fear 2.

Motu Duathlon long, male: Galatea Boiz 1, Zane Boyle 2.

Motu Duathlon long, female: Penny Foggo 1, Nan Baker 2.

Motu Duathlon long, mixed: Jam 1.

Motu Duathlon short, male: Paul Terry 1.

Motu Duathlon short, mixed: Team AA 1, The Pretenders 2.

Michelle RennieFile picture by Liam Clayton
PADDLING THE WAIOEKA: Wairoa-born multisport athlete Sam Manson paddles on the Waioeka River during the Motu Challenge on Saturday. Manson finished second in the open men’s race, behind Dougal Allan. Picture by Bruce Belcher