New Zealand’s number one multisport and adventure racing athlete, Richard Ussher, is changing his focus for 2011 after a closely fought win at the Paymark XTERRA New Zealand Championship today.
The four-time Coast to Coast Champion and world class adventure racer took top honors in the 1km swim, 29km mountain bike and 11km trail run race by more than a minute from last year’s defending champion Scott Thorne from Hamilton.
“It was a really hard day at the office today but I am really pleased with the win” said Ussher.
Ussher will now, for the first time in his career, turn his major focus to XTERRA off-road triathlons, including racing in Europe leading up to the XTERRA World Championships in Maui on October 23rd.
“The XTERRA format is a really good mix of racing for me with the off-road element but still the triathlon structure. I have been to the XTERRA World Champs in Maui twice now, in 2009 my seat post broke and I finished 11th, in 2010 I crashed my bike and finished in 7th place. So I definitely have some unfinished business there – I want to go back and give it a better crack. I have really been working hard on my mountain biking, getting my technical skills up.”
This tactic worked well today with Ussher leading off the bike and Thorne right behind (all pictures here courtesy alphapix/John Cowpland). Ussher’s experience and strength got him through to his second XTERRA win in Rotorua, having also won in 2009.
“I tried to get a bit of a gap on him (Thorne) from the start on the run, then I relaxed and got into my rhythm, halfway through I was able to surge again and then just held on,” said Ussher.
It was a different story in the women’s race with first time triathlete, Karen Hanlen, upsetting the women’s field with a come from behind win. Hanlen, from Whakatane, surprised even herself with the win, especially given her inexperience.
“That was my first ever triathlon and first ever open water swim, I was actually quite scared and only got through the swim because it was the only way of getting out of the water!”
Hanlen was a lot more comfortable on the ride, making up most of the three minute deficient out of the water and coming off the bike in second place.
The mother of two small children and relative newcomer to any sort of competitive racing isn’t looking to continue racing XTERRA this year, instead concentrating on her first love of mountain biking, including representing New Zealand at the World Mountain Biking Championships in Switzerland this September.
The Paymark XTERRA Rotorua Festival annually hosts more than 2,000 athletes in what is considered the world’s largest single day XTERRA off-road triathlon festival with competitors choosing from walking, running, mountain biking as well as the individual and team XTERRA events.
XTERRA New Zealand Championship
Men’s top 5
1. Richard Ussher – Nelson – 2:17:06
2. Scott Thorne – Hamilton – 2:18:28
3. Mark Leishman – Rotorua – 2:22:59
4. Ben Allen – Australia – 2:23:24
5. Josh Kenyon – Taupo – 2:28:03
Women’s Top 5
1. Karen Hanlen – Whakatane – 2:42:14
2. Susie Wood – Nelson – 2:43:20
3. Lizzie Orchard – Auckland – 2:47:18
4. Annika Smail – Rotorua – 2:48:08
5. Fleur Lattimore – Nelson – 2:48:58