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With everyone taking off on the 2.5km run from Kumara beach as if they had a bus to catch, Bell, a 25-year-old farmer from Rangiora, found himself involved in a leading group of five at the transition to the 55km bike to Aickens.
The group decided to sit up and wait, as the lead group then grew to a front bunch of 20 riders. It was game on as this group began to work off one another and put distance on the rest of the field. Bell was one of the first of the lead group of 15 riders to hit the transition at Aickens and, following a slick transition, was first to head into Deception Valley for the mountain run.
Despite being dogged by cramping all the way up to Goat Pass — which allowed Lachie Bownlie (Nelson) to pass him — Bell hung on and kept Brownlie from gaining too much of an advantage.
But up top on Goat Pass, as Bell started to gain a second wind, Brownlie began to cramp up. And as Bell regained contact with him, Brownlie’s tank was running on empty and he found himself unable to counter.
"At Boulders I had a wee bit of a walk and slowly started to come right," Bell said.
Bell remained strong up top and opened up a commanding lead in the long Valley section leading to the completion of day one’s racing at Klondyke Corner.
"It’s pretty cool, eh? I just hope I can recover well and back it up tomorrow."
Bell completed day one’s 55km bike and 33km alpine stage in 5hr 26min 5sec, holding a 7min 5sec lead over Brownlie.
First to finish day one of the two-day open women’s section was Selena Metherell (25), a former University of Otago medical student and now a doctor at Rotorua Hospital.
Getting mixed up with a very large peloton gave her early concerns, going far quicker than she would have liked but she dug deep and hung on near the back of the group.
First to go through transition to the mountain run, Metherell, despite rolling a knee coming off the boardwalk after Goat Pass, remained unchallenged to lead the open women’s field with an 11min 44sec lead over Hannah Lund (Dannevirke).
Metherell’s father, Alister, who competed in the first Coast to Coast race in 1983, was first to greet her at the Klondyke finish area.
"She’s just a bit outside my time at this stage. So I think the family record is safe." he said.
In other results, Chris Harte (Christchurch) won the open men’s 33km mountain run in 3hr 34min 33sec, while Julia Chamberlain (Darfield) won the open women’s mountain run in 4hr 44min 20sec.
In the vintage men’s 60 section, Dunedin’s Mike Adair goes into the second day of competition in second place, after clocking an impressive 7hr 41min 5sec