Date: 23rd January 2012
It might sound strange that 40 seconds could prove so important over a race which lasts almost nine hours, but that might have been the case for defending Challenge Wanaka titleholder Jamie Whyte on Saturday.
The Southlander was fourth out of Lake Wanaka after the 3.8km swim, trailing fellow New Zealanders Kieran Doe and Bryan Rhodes and eventual winner Aaron Farlow, of Australia, by less than a minute.
With Farlow eventually catching and passing Doe on the bike and Rhodes dropping out of contention, Whyte had the loneliest, longest ride of the leading contenders and he was not able to press his claims on the run before settling for second place, with Doe third.
While riders aren’t allowed to draft at Challenge Wanaka, there is a benefit from trailing another rider.
“I was in a position where I was caught in no-man’s land on the bike, obviously behind the lead group and well in front of the chase group, so I rode a 180km time trial today. It was hard out there. I had to do all the work myself,” he said.
“I’m really proud of the way I raced. It was a tough situation to be in and I just had to dial in my wattage and chase hard. I held that gap to those front guys, who were working together so I was always up against it. Full credit to the way Aaron raced, he deserved it.”
Was the swim pivotal?
“I was happy enough. I didn’t lose too much time to Kieran but maybe the 40sec to Aaron Farlow might have cost me. If I’d swum 40sec faster I might have been able to ride with him up at the front,” he said.
“Looking back, maybe that was a decisive moment in the race, but in saying that he raced incredibly well across all three legs today and I don’t know if that would have made the difference.”
Whyte, who left after the race to attend the wedding of a former university friend and workmate in Queenstown, isn’t about to beat himself up too much about the result.
While disappointed not to back-up in Wanaka, he enjoyed the experience of wearing the race’s heaviest number. “It’s something to work on. I know that swimming is a weakness, but fourth out of the water’s not too bad. I’ll just keep chipping away, maybe come back next year 40sec faster and it could be a different race,” he said.
“You don’t get too many opportunities like this in your life so I was certainly ready for it, I prepared well. I was in the best possible shape and I was cleanly beaten today by the better athlete.”
Meanwhile, Christchurch’s Gina Crawford re-established herself as the undisputed queen of Challenge Wanaka after winning her fourth title at her fourth attempt after missing last year’s race to start a family.The former Southland Boys’ High School pupil has a varied programme for the remainder of his summer which will take him to Australia, Europe and North America.
With baby son Benji waiting for her on the sideline, Crawford held off the challenge of former professional cyclist Britta Martin, a German now based in Nelson, who is the partner of New Zealand Olympic cyclist Robin Reid, and a fast finish from Wanaka local Simone Maier.
“I’ve been out for a while and I definitely needed to prove myself to all my sponsors again that I’m still the athlete that I was,”Crawford said.
Men: Aaron Farlow 9:44.06 1; Jamie Whyte +10.00 2; Kieran Doe +15.24 3.
Women: Gina Crawford 9:44.06 1; Britta Martin +3.33 2; Simone Maier +13.36.
Published on Stuff by Nathan Burdon on the 23rd January