Triathlete displeased with retailers

Nicky SamuelsOne of Central Otago's best athletes has hit back at a small group of Wanaka retailers and their ongoing discontent about the town's big triathlons.

Wanaka's top triathlete, Nicky Samuels, a two-time Central Otago female athlete of the year and one of New Zealand's top exponents of the sport, has spoken out about her disappointment at the negativity of some of the town's retailers.

Grumbles from central business district retailers last year have prompted a course change in tonight's popular Contact Tri Series sprint race, which takes place on the eve of the major Challenge Wanaka event.

"I am disappointed in the local shop owners not liking the race going through our small town. I feel all these competitors in town will be making them money, not limiting it," Samuels said.

She spoke frankly about the event's having to be held further out of the CBD than in previous years. "It is a shame the course had to be changed. The new course is not as challenging and exciting for the spectators, with fewer twists and turns on the bike and run."

Racing in each of the elite races took about an hour, which was not a long time given the numbers of people attracted to town by the event, Samuels said.

Since it was first held three years ago, the race around Pembroke Park and Wanaka's lakefront and CBD has attracted big crowds of spectators to watch the tight sprint finishes.

Changes to the criterium course will remove the action from Dunmore St and Helwick St, and confine it to Dungarvon Rd, apart from a hairpin bend and finish outside Ardmore St watering holes.

Helwick St retailer Henry Heard, who owns Wanaka Fine Wines, said road closures associated with past triathlons had cost his business money, as customers struggled to gain access to parking and also his premises.

"It can be like a ghost street around here when the racing is on."

Some businesses did very well out of the triathlons, but others were affected by the disruption to the CBD, he said.

Mr Heard was positive about the changes to the race course, but was not prepared to speculate on what kind of effect they might have, until after tonight's race.