First time racers win event
It started out with wanting to claim a little time out from their combined total of seven kids and ended up with team 5 Minutes Peace winning the Spring Challenge North Taupo¯ 9-hour race on Saturday.
Grinning with disbelief as they ran across the Whakaipo Bay finish line to find out they had won in a time of 9 hours 18 minutes and 52 seconds, Varnia Smith (Alexandra) and Amy Elworthy (Waikato) put their victory down to their “amazing navigator” Olivia McLeod, of Blenheim.
In their 80km race that involved a 6km raft down the Waikato River, a hike, two bikes, plus two orienteering stages, strategy became vital as they entered the final stage in close proximity to the eventual second and third placegetters Making Waves and Make it Dirt.
Olivia credited their two rival teams for being strong mountain bikers as she talked through her team’s rise up through the rankings.
“We got off to a good start first on the water, about sixth off then we just plodded along and paced ourselves, like Nathan [Fa’avae, event founder] told us last night. We came out of the forest in third [on the stage five 11km mountain bike] and we just headed in on foot and just kept running, was the secret,” she says.
They made a strategic decision to go a different way to the other teams through the final orienteering stage and “to be honest we didn’t realise we were first coming through the finish — we thought we might have been second”, Varnia says.
Adding to their achievement was the fact they have never teamed up before, Amy says.
“Actually this is our first race together. We didn’t do any racing together as a team, leading up to this which is unreal.”
Making Waves’ Nixie Boddy says she and her teammates Nicole Symons, also of Christchurch, and Hokitika’s Kat Reynolds were happy with their performance.
Their favourite part was “easily the mountain biking. We are all mountain bikers. Just the technicality of it was right up our alley,” Nicole says.
Team Make it Dirt — Anna Barrett, of Maketu, plus Heather Logie and Lydia Hale, both of Rotorua — had led off the raft and had a nine-minute buffer going into stage 4, the 6km orienteering activity. They held the lead until the end of the final mountain bike.
Spring Challenge event manager Wendy van den Berg was impressed with the number of women doing the event for the first time. Now in its third year in the North Island, the Spring Challenge Taupo¯ attracted the highest number of entries up north to date. In total there were 247 teams racing.
Wendy describes the course, which was completed in cool, calm conditions as “quite technical”.
“It was definitely not on the easy side — quite a challenging course. Single track riding in the Craters of the Moon mountain bike park, for example, might not have been everyone’s forte but I think the competitors did really well embracing the challenge. Thanks to all the landowners, volunteers, Taupo¯ District Council and the local waka ama club for providing a great feast at the finish line.”
While the 2019 Spring Challenge South event in Cromwell is already sold out, the 2019 Spring Challenge North destination will be announced shortly.
Despite having never raced together before team 5 Minutes Peace, pictured here on a hiking stage of Spring Challenge Taupo¯ last Saturday, won the 9-hour category.