Allan lays Longest Day demons to rest

Dougal Allan crosses a stream during the mountain-running stage of the Longest Day at the...
Dougal Allan crosses a stream during the mountain-running stage of the Longest Day at the Kathmandu Coast to Coast on Saturday. Photo: Wayne Parsons
It has been a decade in the making, but victory in the Coast to Coast Longest Day proved a defining moment for Wanaka’s Dougal Allan.

For the 33-year-old professional athlete and ambassador for Landmark Homes, lifting the world championship of multisport crown had proved more elusive than Bigfoot, the Abominable Snowman and icebergs off the coast of Rarotonga. But on Saturday, the demons of five other attempts were laid to rest as he powered to victory in 11hr 15min.

The day dawned with light drizzle on the West Coast side and it was an impressive time, given the heavy conditions over the first 50km, and bleak conditions on Goat Pass.

Despite the absence of any previous champion in the field, there was no faulting the calibre of the field. For the first time in the event’s history entries had reached the maximum allowable, and the standard of racing was competitive and intense throughout.

Having won the two-day title in 2008, Allan went on to record, by his standards, a disappointing result in his first attempt at the Longest Day in 2009. But it was his race with three-time champion Gordon Walker (Auckland) in 2010 that helped plant a seed of future success in the event.

Walker was somewhat taken by surprise, that wet day in 2010, by Allan’s dogged determination to hang on, predicting afterwards that he saw Allan as a future champion of the Longest Day event.

It may have taken another nine years and a successful sojourn into ironman, but Walker’s words rang true on Saturday, as Allan lifted the trophy, under Walker’s coaching and technical advice.

A breakaway group of 13 formed on the 55km bike to Aickens and Allan seemed to content himself by staying out of trouble towards the back of the bunch, as Australia’s Alex Hunt and Te Puke’s Bobby Dean tried to break away. They eventually did, heading into the mountain run up Deception Valley,

and Hunt held a 4min lead on Dean at Goat Pass.  The two were followed by Australian James Pretto, Patrick Higgins (Nelson), Sam Mason (Christchurch) and Allan.

By Klondyke, the lead ground had reduced to four, with Hunt still dictating the pace, Dean 2min back and Mason and Allan in hot pursuit.

Dean was nailed by Mason and Allan on the 15km bike to Mount White River bridge and the start of the 67km kayak. A three-way scrap for the lead opened up as  Mason and Allan hit the water simultaneously, with Hunt in their sights.

But if Allan’s skill on the water was questioned in previous years, it was far from the case on Saturday. He took advantage of tactical errors from both Hunt and Mason to finish the stage 3min 30sec clear of Mason, with Hunt a further 2min back.

Allan really hammered home his advantage on the 70km bike to the finish at New Brighton, going coast to coast and completing the 243km in 11hr 15min. Mason was second in 11hr 30min 4sec, and Hunt third in 11hr 39min 34sec.

In a sign of respect, Mason said  he was totally smoked by Allan on the ride to the finish.

"Imagine if I was that guy who chased down Dougal Allan to win this race. How good would that sound? Dougal is phenomenal. He’s not the guy you’re going to catch on the bike."

There is no disputing Allan’s right to be the new world champion of multisport.

"It’s been six years since my last shot at it and I was probably guilty of fear of failure," Allan said of turning to ironman after finishing third to Braden Currie in 2013.

"I just had to get over myself. The success in these things is all about having a crack. You can’t guarantee anything and the only way is by coming in and giving it a shot. That was the attitude I brought into the race this year and it’s all worked out."

A strong kayak stage helped set Lachie Brownlie (Nelson) up for victory in the open men’s two-day event. Brownlie completed the 243km course in 12hr 41min 15sec. Harry Llewellyn (Mount Maunganui) was second in 12hr 54min 6secFirst-day leader Sam Bell (Rangiora) finished third in 12hr 57min 8sec.

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