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University of Otago students William Sams and Hamish Fleming showed admirable coping skills in winning the Dunedin City Mazda Adventure Challenge on Saturday.
Fleming was competing a day after sitting his final university exam in geology and geography, while Sams will sit his final papers today in physical education.
Sams and Fleming completed the course in 10hr 13min, 1hr 27min clear of second-placed Team Ryan and Nathan (Ryan Kiesanowski and Nathan Peterson), which held out a late surge from third-placed Team Mainfreight (11hr 45min).
Sams and Fleming (Knowledge Institute) got an early break on the field with some superb map-reading and navigational skills.
They endured snow at the start, before the day heated up. But then over the second half of the race, the weather turned it on with rain, hail and wind chill.
"We were down to shorts and T-shirts for the middle section. But then the jackets were back out again for the end," Fleming said.
The Team Mainfreight duo of Dougal Allan and Jess Simpson foxed everyone into a helter-skelter pace over the opening stages involving mountain biking.
"The start was pretty frightening. It was pretty quick, trying to keep up with Dougal," Sams said.
"Me and Hamish just wanted to stick to our race plan, which was to do our own thing and not worry about the others."
Checkpoint three proved the undoing for many. Sams backed the decision of Fleming to go to higher ground, while the choice by all other teams to take the low road cost them valuable time.
With the rest of the field floundering around, Sams and Fleming were able to jump out to a 40-45min lead, showing sound navigational judgement over the remainder of the 17 stages.
"We felt pretty confident with our nav. We always found ourselves questioning our choices. We just trusted and backed our decisions," Sams said.
"Hamish was the prime navigator. He did really well. Basically, I was trying to support and motivate him as best as I could, in keeping his confidence with his route choice."
One of the checkpoints on the Taieri River proved the downfall for one team, which paddled straight past the Silverstream turnoff, ending up lost 10km further downstream. Another became disoriented in thick bush on the way down from the abseiling to the river section.
"Sometimes we felt as though we were going the hard way. But there was no easy way," Fleming said.
"The abseiling was pretty wicked. We had to go down backwards. It felt like walking on the moon."
In the associated 4hr event, the Valley Boys team of Nolan Hill and Mark O'Donnell won in a time of 2hr 40min. Team R and R sport (Marco Kleinlangevelsloo and Brian Adams) won the 6hr event in 5hr 37min.
Organiser Josh Harris hopes to split the event in two for next year, with a 6hr event in September as a precursor to the 12hr in November.