Dylan McNeice and Gina Crawford both from New Zealand took top honours at the thrilling Challenge Wanaka iron-distance event in New Zealand today. The day started under threatening clouds, but fortunately the rain held off and the sun came through making for a fantastic day in this beautiful location.
The wind did pick up making for a tough swim, but it didn’t seem to bother iron-distance rookie McNeice as he pulled away in the men’s field. Fellow countryman Bryan Rhodes followed in second, with a chase pack containing Australians Leon Griffin and Chris McCormack, and New Zealand’s Jamie Whyte.
McNeice was first out of the water in just under 50 minutes. He went out on to the bike with just under four minutes on Rhodes and nearly seven minutes ahead of the chase group. Many expected McNeice to be reeled in on the bike as the big names took up chase, but he held his own over the first half of the bike. Griffin, McCormack and Whyte managed to catch Rhodes and the four rode together.
McNeice kept the throttle open and continued to hold his lead. He amazed the crowd when arrived into T2 first. Out on the run Whyte, who broke away from the group towards the end of the bike, started to close the gap on McNeice in the early stages of the marathon. Whyte caught up and the two ran together briefly before the first timer surged and started to open a gap on the 2011 race champion.
The big question was whether McCormack could close the gap? He came charging on to the run course and was instantly moving towards the front. The four-time world champion did start to close the gap, but struggled in the latter stages as both Whyte and McNeice regained time on him.
People were still wondering when McNeice might finally snap and the more experience athletes would move through? It didn’t happen. A 2:59:59 marathon was enough to seal the deal as McNeice stopped the clock at 8:51:18 for a classy first iron-distance victory. Whyte remained strong for second four minutes later with McCormack rounding out the podium just over two minutes later.
In the women’s race Crawford, who has won this race on four previous occasions, led the way in the swim as she opened a gap on her competition. She hit T1 in 59:14 with New Zealand’s Jo Lawn 32 seconds behind and Kate Bevilaqua from Australia 1:24 down.
Out on the bike Crawford didn’t waste any time as she soon distanced herself from the rest of the field. Despite the best efforts of Lawn, the pocket rocket continued to open the gap all the way to the T2. By the time Crawford hit T2 she had a lead of over 16 minutes.
On the run Crawford looked good from the start and was never really challenged. The 10-time iron-distance champion ran to an emotional victory as her husband and 18-month old son waited at the finish line. Her 9:24:31 finish time not only earned Crawford her fifth win in Wanaka, but she also set a new course record. New Zealand’s Candice Hammond pulled the fastest run of the day (3:09:43) to catch Lawn in the closing stages. Lawn didn’t give up easily and the two sprinted for the line. Hammond edged out Lawn to take second by just eight seconds. Lawn, one of the hardest girls in the sport, gave it everything as she collapsed across the line for third.
1. Dylan McNeice (NZL) 8:51:18
2. Jamie Whyte (NZL) 8:55:43
3. Chris McCormack (AUS) 8:58:05
4. Keegan Williams (NZL) 8:59:50
5. Bryan Rhodes (NZL) 9:04:12
1. Gina Crawford (NZL) 9:24:31
2. Candice Hammond (NZL) 9:44:22
3. Jo Lawn (NZL) 9:44:30
4. Simone Maier (NZL) 9:51:23
5. Tamsyn Hayes (NZL) 10:21:04