Robyn digs deep to win NZ coast-to-coast ultra
STELLENBOSCH athlete Robyn Owen is on top of the world after racing to victory in the World Multisport Championships at the Kathmandu Coast to Coast race over 243km in New Zealand yesterday.
Held every February since its inauguration in 1983, the Coast to Coast traverses the width of the South Island, crossing the main divide from west to east and finishing at Christchurch. Over 20 000 athletes have completed the challenge since its inception.
In the race of her life, Owen completed the run, cycle and kayaking challenge in 12 hrs 44 min 56 sec, almost four minutes clear of New Zealand’s Sophie Hart, arguably the world’s leading multisport athlete in recent years in one of the fastest finishing times in the last decade.
Owen, second last year and runner-up in the Ultra-trail Cape Town 100km in December, won the gold medal and almost R100 000 – the biggest pay cheque to date in her professional career.
“I guess this is as good as it gets! It’s so good to get the result after all the hard work over the last few months,” an exhausted Owen reflected. “It’s been a phenomenal goal and it’s great to be back here in New Zealand. I was pretty sure Sophie was catching me on the final bike leg and I was feeling pretty spent after the paddle, so was so happy to hold on.
“New Zealand is known to be the hub of multisport and adventure racing. I believe the depth of talent, particularly of female athletes, is more than can be found anywhere else in the world. It’s one of the reasons that the Coast to Coast is such an attractive event.”
Owen’s younger brother, Lance Kime, was at the finish to welcome his sister, after finishing in an excellent ninth place, just twelve minutes ahead of Owen. “I couldn’t help choking up – it was just so good seeing Robyn win today,” a teary Kime commented.
Five times Dusi Canoe Marathon champion, Owen’s paddling prowess is well known and feared by rivals, but it was her dexterity and strength on the testing 33km mountain trail run which clinched the title, with Owen leaving her competitors for dead on the rugged, technical riverbed climb up to and over Goat’s Pass.
Showing the form which took her to the Otter Trail 42km record in 2016, Owen put 15 minutes onto her closest rivals on the run, after the top six women had finished the 55km bike ride within seconds of each other. After that, it was always going to take an extraordinary effort by the chasers to unseat Owen.
In spite of feeling below-par in the paddle through the Waimakariri River gorge, Owen increased her lead by four minutes over Hart and almost twenty minutes over strong German athlete, Simone Maier, to start the final bike leg with a 20 minute cushion. Having been overtaken by threetime champion, Elina Ussher in the last leg last year, Owen admitted to starting the final 70km “riding scared” and deeply tired.
In a nail-biting finish, Hart cut Owen’s twenty minute lead to just 3 min 50 sec in the final 70km road cycle but drawing on all her reserves, Owen fought off physical and mental demons into a strong headwind in the final quarter to hold on for a memorable victory.
New Zealand’s Sam Clark retained his title with a convincing 30 minute victory over Australian Alex Hunt to take overall line honours and cross the line in 11 hrs 14 min 33 sec in a race largely overshadowed by the women’s competition, both in depth of talent and shear excitement.
Kraaifontein-based training partners, Danzil Paulse and Fortunate Chidzivo, raced to impressive victories at the 27 for Freedom Road Race yesterday.
The 27km race is held annually from the Victor Verster prison at Groot Drakenstein to commemorate Nelson Mandela’s walk to freedom almost three decades ago.
Nkosinathi Madyo and Nomvuyisi Seti took line honours in the 10km event.
The promising Paulse was the youngster in the lead group of older athletes including 36 year old Delft athlete, Siyabonga Sakwe, and the over-forty Gugulethu pair, Peter Tsawayo and Tsungai Mwanengeni, with the four runners all in contention through the half way mark at Wemmershoek.
But the “old men” could not compete with youth when Paulse surged ahead after 14km. Only Tsawayo took the fight to his younger rival, but he soon conceded, leaving Paulse to race to victory by 47 seconds in 1:32:56.
“It’s a tough race,” admitted Paulse. “My legs were starting to tire towards the end, but I’m pleased to have held on this time. I was leading at the Bay to Bay 30km but had to drop out near the finish due to dehydration.”
Chidzivo repeated her win in the Bay to Bay 30km last month with a decisive victory over Carbineers athlete, Candyce Hall. Chidzivo raced clear from the start to cross the line in 1:51:10 to win by 7 minutes.
“My main goal this year is to improve my marathon time,” explained Chidzovo. “I ran 2 hrs 41 min at Cape Town Marathon in 2016 and I will be going all out to dip under 2 hrs 40 min this time.”
TOP OF THE WORLD: Robyn Owen at the finish line.