Wanaka athlete a popular winner

Dougal Allan, of Wanaka, crosses the finish line to claim first place.
Dougal Allan, of Wanaka, crosses the finish line to claim first place.
Yvonne van Vlerken, of the Netherlands, crosses the finish line to be the first woman home.
Yvonne van Vlerken, of the Netherlands, crosses the finish line to be the first woman home.
The competitors take to the water at the start of Challenge Wanaka on Saturday morning. Photos by...
The competitors take to the water at the start of Challenge Wanaka on Saturday morning. Photos by Gregor Richardson.

It was a dream race for Dougal Allan on Saturday as the hometown boy won Challenge Wanaka, while first-time entrant Yvonne van Vlerken held on for the women's title.

It was a hugely popular victory in Wanaka in a race Allan had worked hard to win.

Allan (30) fought hard in the bike leg after finishing the swim 10min behind defending champion Dylan McNiece, who finished the first swim stage in a record 43min 30sec.

McNiece, of Christchurch, retained his lead until 98km into the bike when German Maik Twelsiek known as the ‘‘German Cycling Machine'', overpowered him.

At the 135km bike mark, Allan moved past McNiece, advancing on Twelsiek, to ultimately pass him 14km into the marathon run.

He finished in 8hr 31min 53sec, knocking almost 4min off the record held by Coast to Coast champion Richard Usher, of Nelson, and 9min ahead of Twelsiek, who finished second.

Matthew Russell, of the United States, finished third, 2min later.

After the race Allan said he had waited for the win all his life.

‘‘You wait for this moment all your life and when it actually happens it stuns you,'' he said.

‘‘I'm a bit lost for words.''He dedicated the win to his coach Val Burke.

‘‘The bike last year was my strength but this year I wanted to connect a good swim and a consistent run.

‘‘I didn't feel the best on the bike but I got the swim and run I hoped for. I backed myself to catch Maik and you can never write off Dylan.''Adverse wind and rain had made the bike difficult, he said.

Allan's win shattered the hopes of three-time winner McNiece, who faded from the leading pack in the run to finish fourth, almost 30min behind Russell.

McNiece said he would remember the day.‘‘Most people might say that today was one to forget, but I think I'll remember it for a long time.

‘‘I really wanted it bad today, but I was my own worst enemy.

‘‘Lesson learned.''Van Vlerken, of the Netherlands, sealed her 31st long-distance race with a win, finishing in 9hr 26min 50sec, ahead of Laura Siddall of England, who finished 4min behind.

Meredith Hill, of Australia, finished in third, 60min after van Vlerken.

The Dutch woman dominated the race from the outset, following just 10sec behind Anna Cleaver, who exited the water first in 45min 19sec.

Former defending champion Gina Crawford, Alyssa Godesky, Simone Maier and Siddall were all out of the water within 5min of the leaders.

The women's race quickly developed into a competition between van Vlerken and Siddall after Maier and Godesky came off their bikes and were forced to withdraw from the race, and Crawford withdrew before the second stage.

Van Vlerken's lead was snatched by Siddall 100km into the bike and van Vlerken did not recapture it until 12km into the run.

Siddall said she had not expected to win.

‘‘I didn't expect to win, I think it was a mental thing rather than my physical shape as I was not as fit as I should be. I had the most amazing swim,'' she said.

‘‘Anna Cleaver, who's an incredible swimmer, was really surprised to see me next to her in the change tent!''

Craig Savage, of Christchurch, won the men's half in 4hr 22min 47sec, and Hannah Wells, of Auckland, won the women's half in 4hr 59min 15sec.

By Margot Taylor. 

 

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