The finish line of the Motatapu mountain bike event was a scene of carnage when top Southern Lakes riders Gavin Mason (Wanaka) and Mark Williams (Queenstown) went "wheel-to-wheel" over the finish line with Mason taking the honours by a split second to win the coveted elite title.
Mason clocked 1:52:45.92 while Williams timed in at 1:52:45.93. Brent Miller and Nick Clark, both of Christchurch were hard on their heels finishing in 1:52:46.76 and 1:52:51.99.
The four were a tight knit bunch from the start of the 47km race which crosses three high country stations from Glendhu Bay in Wanaka, through Motatapu, Soho and Glencoe Stations. The properties are opened exclusively for the Motatapu one day a year.
With a field of 2,100 bikers competing in elite, sport and recreational sections the event has a huge following from people of all age groups and competition was intense in all age-group levels.
The elite men's photo finish was spectacular with all four leaders sprinting over the finish line in a tight huddle, crashing to the ground and scattering officials in their wake.
"We have ridden together all the way and it was always going to be a lottery at the end. It was a very entertaining race," said Mason. "It was like Russian roulette in the rivers deciding which line we were taking."
Williams, who is currently in training for the Cape Epic in South Africa said there was "a lot of banter on the way and we put in a final sprint from the last river crossing. Usually someone is out on their own but today the four of us stuck closely together."
Top ranked national women's mountain biking representative Kate Fluker set a new record to win the elite open female section in 2hrs:16m, just over four minutes ahead of Floortje Draisma of Wanaka, who completed the race in 2:20:51. Megan Rose of Canada, racing in her first Motatapu event, was third in 2:23:29.
The previous record of 2:20:05 was held by prominent mountain biker Kate Kelly.
Fluker said she felt more in control compared to last year when she "hit the wall" in one part of the race. "I managed to sustain it this year and was much happier about my performance."
Now living in Queenstown Rose was excited about her third placing in her debut outing. "I didn't really know what to expect and I am very surprised by my result. It was certainly an interesting race."
Nathan Veevers of Christchurch won the men's sports section in 2hrs:06m:011s and recreation men's title went to Nick Beekhuis of Dunedin in 2:18:41. The women's sports section title was won by Ingrid Cooper in 2hrs:31m:39s and Trudi Boyd of Christchurch was fastest in the recreation section in 2:53:36.
The Motatapu attracts competitors for a whole variety of reasons and for John Howe of Wanaka who broke his neck about halfway through the race in 2010 this year's event was a chance to deal with "unfinished business."
"I had to be helicoptered off the race two years ago after someone braked in front of me and I crashed off my bike. It took me eight months before I could get back on the bike but here I am today and I am very pleased to have finally finished the race."
Howe paid tribute to the support of organisers, volunteers and medical staff who assisted him at the time of his accident. "They were brilliant and it is good to meet some of them today."
Rachel Wallace, who won the Air New Zealand Zero to Hero competition after she was entered by her husband Matthew, won a Scott bike and accessories as well as flights, accommodation and entry into the Motatapu. "I have never done anything like this in my life before," she said following the event." It was really, really hard and I have only been training since Christmas. I just had to tell myself to keep going and I made it. I'm coming back next year but this time Matthew is entering with me!"
Olympic gold medallist Hamish Carter competed in his role as Patron of Pink Pilates. The rogramme which is designed to assist women with breast cancer has a high profile at the Motatapu and many supporters of the charity take part in one of the five events.
Carter, who is retired from the world of triathlon said he was enjoying taking part in a recreational event after years of competitive top level sport.
Overcast weather conditions provided an ideal environment for the Motatapu today, according to Race Director Gemma Boyle. "This has set the background once again for a great Motatapu experience for our competitors and once again there has been lots of friendly rivalry and camaraderie throughout all five events as well as our new multi-sport trial event. We are indebted to all our volunteers, sponsors and supporters for helping us make the event such
an outstanding success."
The 47km race is one of five Motatapu events held on the same day.
Brief Results (For full results, visit www.iconicadventures.co.nz/motatapu-home/)
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