Two Wanaka locals, Dougal Allan and Simone Maier, can now add World Multisport Champion titles to their lifetime achievement lists. Both endurance athletes were first-time victors of the Kathmandu Coast to Coast World Championship One Day Race last Saturday, the closest fought men's and women's 243km run, bike, kayak race in the event's 37-year history.
Returning from a Coast to Coast six year hiatus, 33-year-old Allan had plenty to prove and claimed the men's title with a total race time of 11 hours and 15 minutes after closely competing with Christchurch's Sam Manson and Australian multisport athlete Alex Hunt.
"I knew from the start that I had a good shot if I kept to my race plan and didn’t allow myself to be drawn into someone else's [plan]," said Allan. "Once I was on the [Waimakariri] river in the company of Alex and Sam, I knew it was my race to lose. That being said, I couldn't take anything for granted given the unpredictable nature of the course and remained deeply focused until I crossed the finish line."
"I have been immensely proud of my previous attempts at the race, but, of course, anything less than a victory would continue to leave me with doubt about whether it would in fact be possible to win," said Allan, who has concentrated on Ironman since 2013.
"Putting my name on that trophy is one of the biggest achievements of my life."
Allan said he attributes some of last weekend’s race success to approaching his efforts with patience. "I wanted to remain consistent throughout the day and pick my opportunities to win the race as others began to fade. As it turned out, this happened about eight hours into the race."
Surrounded by his young family after his win, Allan said his return to the One Day Race was a chance to make amends and set an example for his children.
"My wife and children see me as much more than an athlete. I wanted to return to the race with a broader perspective of what I was setting out to achieve. Winning would be hugely exciting, but returning to the race, approaching it differently and having another crack was what was important," said Allan.
The women's race proved exciting with Wanaka-based Maier also claiming her first-time World Championship title with a total race time of 12 hours and 56 minutes by beating out four-time champion Elina Ussher of Nelson by 11 minutes and Alexandra's Fiona Dowling, who placed third just two minutes behind Ussher.
Maier, who turned 39 on Tuesday, said that being the first woman to cross the finish line during her third Coast to Coast attempt was icing on the cake after racing in global multisport events for roughly seven years, "I'm feeling very happy and satisfied as my dream came true. They say that I am now a World Multisport Champion, and I think that is a great title."
Maier had to recover from crashing her bike into a van during the short-cycling stage that sits between the mountain run and leads into the kayaking thereby resulting in a two-minute penalty in transition due to a support crew member carrying her bike from the rack and putting it on the tar seal, which is something competitors must do.
"I did not recover easily, but I was very lucky,” said Maier. “It was my own fault that I crashed head on into a Ford transit van....luckily my bike was mostly okay. I got away with some bruises, but my front brake was kind of locked for parts of the remaining ride."
German-born Maier has been calling Wanaka her home for the last 12 years and was told that the town had adopted her.
"I came to New Zealand 12 years ago, went straight to Wanaka and never looked back to Germany apart from visits....I came as a visitor and locals welcomed me to their place to stay; I had the most humble, amazing, and incredible support in this little town. I'm so lucky to have met so many amazing, inspiring human beings, who encouraged me to keep following my dreams and to never give up on them."
Both Maier and Allan said one of their favourite moments of the race involved the support they received on the day.
"It was amazing where people pop up along the way; it is a long and lonely day for the most part, but seeing a friend cheering along the way always lifts the spirits," said Allan.
Maier said "I had a few favourite moments: one was running over the Goat Pass and really enjoying what I was doing, bouncing along boulder over boulder and running with guys. My other favourite moment was getting so many cheers from people watching the race; it really made me smile."
The Kathmandu Coast to Coast is a multisport event based in the South Island and held every February. The race starts on the West Coast’s Kumara Beach and finishes on New Brighton Beach in Christchurch.