Sunday, January 18, 2009

blueseventy athletes storm Challenge Wanaka

Blitzing the course record, blueseventy's Aussie Chris McDonald powered home to win the third Challenge Wanaka long-distance triathlon in 8hrs 37.41secs yesterday, nearly seven minutes clear of New Zealander Keegan Williams. Czech Petr Vabrousek rounded out the podium just 30 seconds in arrears in what turned out to be a close-fought battle on the run.

The race takes place on a scenic course through the Southern Lakes region and along the Clutha River in the South Island of New Zealand.

McDonald exited Lake Wanaka two and a half minutes down on the race leaders but by 30km into the cycle had moved to the front. "I got on the bike and hammered the bejeezus out of the first 80km," he said, noting he'd clocked 1.55 over the distance. "I thought I better slow down."


McDonald came into the transition area with four minutes on training partner Justin Daerr, a young American triathlete who finished fourth on the day. He went through the first 21km of the run in 1.23 and at 32km learned he had seven minutes in hand and settled into a steady pace. Behind him, though, it was all change as Daerr dropped back under the withering pace of the veteran Czech campaigner and the young Williams, who was off the bike third more than six minutes adrift of McDonald.

The win makes a great start to McDonald's 2009 campaign, one that follows on a win at Ironman Wisconsin one week after a second at Ironman Kentucky and a fourth place in the Quelle Challenge Roth. "I couldn't be happier. What a way to start the year," he said.

Defending champion and fellow blueseventy athlete Gina Ferguson exited the water first and was never headed to break her own course record by some five minutes and finish in 9.28.27.

"The swim was hard," she said at the finish. "I had a great ride."

In her helix tst wetsuit, she exited the lake with the top male swimmers in 54.34, then set a new bike course record of 5.14, breaking the 2007 mark set by Aussie Belinda Granger.

Ferguson (right) said she struggled from 20km to 30km on the run then came right. "You just have to keep pushing," said the Christchurch-based athlete, who was a winner at December's Ironman Western Australia after an eighth at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. She arrived in Wanaka with only three weeks of training after a bit of a break after the Australian event.

"It was tough to do it yourself all day long-mentally tough," she said. "I hope that will stand me in good stead when I go to race in Hawaii."

Wanaka's own and Merryn Johnston (also wearing blueseventy), fourth here last year in her professional debut, improved to second in 10.03.56. Third spot went to American Hillary Biscay, who was second here last year, in 10.16.39.

Challenge Wanaka is part of the global TEAMChallenge series that features six events in France, Germany and Spain, as well as New Zealand. Now in its third year, it drew more than 470 athletes from 21 countries for a weeklong festival of sport that also included short distance events in the Contract Tri Series on Friday evening.


Challenge Wanaka


1) Chris McDonald (AUS) 8.37.41 (57.12/4.45.34/2.51.33)

2) Keegan Williams (NZL) 8.44.08 (54.41/4.55.04/2.50.41)

3) Petr Vabrousek (CZE) 8.44.38 (57.09/4.55.42/2.48.25)


1) Gina Ferguson (NZL) 9.28.27 (54.34/5.14.28/3.15.19)

2) Merryn Johnston (NZL) 10.03.56

3) Hillary Biscay (USA) 10.16.39

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