The country’s top riders competed alongside ‘weekend warriors’, triathletes and ultra runners, in the event which traverses the Motatapu, Soho and Glencoe Stations across a course open only once a year for the Motatapu event.
To the delight of organisers and competitors, Wanaka turned it on for race day with a picture perfect start and a stunning sunrise over Lake Wanaka. Under the light of the moon, the Ultra Run kicked off early at 6:00am, while the UDC Finance XTERRA Triathletes took to the calm lake with vigour just after sunrise at 8:00am.
Next up the Skoda Elite Mountain Bikers led the charge for the 1,800+ bikers, followed later by the marathon runners and walkers. Meanwhile, Miner’s Trail competitors headed onto the new course from Wilcox Green, Arrowtown.
Lagardère Unlimited CEO Dave Beeche said “after the challenging weather last year, it’s just great to be able to bring the unique finish line vibe back to life again. It’s what the Motatapu is known for,” said Dave.
“The Motatapu is iconic for that finish line experience, the great scenery and the exclusivity of the course-being open only for today.”
“It’s so great to see everyone relaxed after the race, smiles on their faces crossing the finish line and enjoying catching up with friends and enjoying the entertainment.”
“It’s about people getting friends and family together. People have come from all over the world to compete. There’s an event for everyone. It’s just been a great race day.”
Canterbury’s 21 year old Anton Cooper crossed the finish line first in the elite male category for the Skoda Mountain Bike event with a time of 1:51:39.
Anton is current under 23 Cross Country Champion, Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist and came first in the Pioneer MTB Stage Race just last month.
“It was a tough, slightly slower race than I hoped but I raced well and was pleased with my performance. It was still a pretty fast course.”
“I love the Motatapu. It was one of my first ever races. I haven’t been here since 2013, so it’s great to come back and give it a good crack. This was my first real ‘hit-out’ after the multi-day Pioneer and overall I felt good. It’s made me confident going into my next events.”
“I came off after the first hill about 5km in and the last 12km were hard on the longer grass, but I dug in for the last 5km, then it was a pretty lonely race to the end,” said Anton.
Just eight minutes behind was first time entrant Tim Rush from Oamaru.
“I’m 25 but I feel thirty something right now,” said Tim as he crossed the finish line.
“I’m more of a road biker, but had a perfect tail wind those last 15kms to get me through.”
Fifth time Motatapu entrant and women’s course record holder, Kate Fluker, 28 from Queenstown took out the title of elite women’s champion in a time of 2:13:03.
“The grass was green. It’s really squishy out there. I really enjoyed it and I feel really good. I just decided to race my own race and concentrate on some good speed work in the build up to the World Cup,” said Kate.
“It was perfect conditions today. Motatapu was my first ever event five years ago and I love it. Just look at the finish line. No other major biking event has the support and a crowd like this. It’s amazing.”
Kate represented NZ in Commonwealth Games and is now ranked number one in New Zealand. She’ll compete in the World Cup later this year in Cairns, hoping to secure her place representing New Zealand at the Olympics in Rio.
Second place female was 15-year-old Phoebe Young from Wanaka competing in the Junior category in 2:23:16.
“The descent was quite scary, but I checked out the rivers a week or so ago, so I knew what I had to expect and quite enjoyed it. It’s my first time doing this race, but I think I’ll do it again next year. I wanted to catch Anton Cooper, but that didn’t quite happen.”
Rotorua’s Olly Shaw stuck to his word pre-race, taking out the UDC XTERRA Triathlon Men’s title in 3:51:40. Sticking close to second place Kieran McPherson on the bike, Olly eventually overtook him on the last steep hill to take the lead.
“Wow that was bloody good. I loved it,” said Olly.
“Finally I get first in the Motatapu. I was really determined to take out first place but I knew Kieran was ahead of me. This is my fourth XTERRA here and I have come second twice, so it was nice to win. I had a solid swim and a good bike, and I managed to overtake Kieran at the right time.”
“At one point I looked back and saw him, but thought I can’t rest I better keep going. I’m pretty stoked. I love the Motatapu for its brutality and incredible scenery.”
First time UDC XTERRA Triathlete, Mary Gray from Dunedin took part “to challenge herself”. Mary has competed in the Motatapu Mountain Bike Race three times and decided to give the triathlon a go, achieving a finishing time of 4:54:10.
Kieran McPherson from Matamata came second in the male category with a time of 4:00:21.
“That was a good first hit out for the year. It’s my first time on this track, it’s amazing, I wish I could have gone slower to take in the scenery,” said Kieran.
Charlie Sharpe, 27, is from Warrington in the UK but has lived in New Zealand for two years and is back for three months to “do a bit of running”, tackling the Ultra Run Solo in 6:15:16.
“That was good fun apart from the early start. I really enjoyed the last 10 kilometres.”
Mel Aitken, 38 from Dunedin won the women’s marathon for the second year in 3:35:20, preferring this year’s conditions to last year.
“It was good conditions this year, especially compared to last year. It’s a cool course and a well organised event.”
Ryan Carr, 26, from Athol won the Miner’s Trail event in 1:14:55. A shepherd on Nokomai Station, he competed in his first Motatapu event today.
“This is my first 15km race too and I didn’t really train, but I walk hills for a living, so I don’t really need to train more than that,” said Ryan. “It was a good run. I’ll definitely do this again.”
Sarah Douglas, 31 from Queenstown crossed the finish line with a time of 1:22:54 to take out fastest female position.
Originally from Christchurch, Sarah is no stranger to the Motatapu as she’s competed in and previously held the course record for the Off-Road Marathon in 2012.
“It’s a really great race, though I got a bit wet in the river. I was in there up to my neck. It was almost a triathlon there.”
“Guy (fourth place male) kept me going on the downhills. I was chasing him till the end.”
The event’s oldest competitor, John Falconer, 83 from Gore finished the Miner’s Trail in 2:54:26. John, who walks 25-30kms most Saturdays, has competed in the marathon the last few but decided to try the Miner’s Trail for today’s event.