Trimmed-down Belk too slick for others

Claire Bell (Te Anau) rides on the 26km cycle stage of the Taieri Mouth Multisport Challenge...
Claire Bell (Te Anau) rides on the 26km cycle stage of the Taieri Mouth Multisport Challenge yesterday. Bell won the open women's section in 2hr 42min 44sec. PHOTO: WAYNE PARSONS
Get a haircut, get a real win was the secret behind Jonah Belk's victory in a wet and wild annual Taieri Mouth Multisport Challenge yesterday.

Belk (27), a second year Masters student in neuroscience, was full or praise for James Munro (his "new hair stylist") for the short-back-and-sides haircut the night before.

"We did it last night, for a little bit of speed and aerodynamics. It certainly worked. I was shaving minutes off out there today," he said.

Belk competed in the 7km kayak, 10.5km run, 26km bike multisport race yesterday as part of his preparation for next year's Coast to Coast, which will be a race of redemption, as when he last competed two years ago he went in as a favourite to podium in the Longest Day. But not getting the result he wanted, he plans to make his return to the Longest Day course in February and tuck away a few skeletons from his 2018 race.

"I forgot how hard training is," he said of making a return after university study kept him out of Longest Day contention earlier this year.

But despite Belk's absence from the sport, his victory yesterday was enough to serve notice that he still has plenty in the tank.

"It was a fun day out there," he said at the finish.

"It started out pretty hot, with James getting away to a flying start and giving me something to chase."

Choosing a right-hand line, Munro put his K1 craft into turbo drive as he opened up a substantial lead on the 7km kayak to Henley Bridge. But as Munro was competing as a member of a team, it was Belk, taking a left-hand line, who beached his craft at Henley Bridge holding a slight lead for individual honours over Paul Gow and James Faulkner.

Towards the end of the 10.5km run down the Millennium Track to Knarston Park, Belk had maintained a slight advantage over Gow, despite the slippery surface keeping him in a low gear. The slippery nature of the course, although slowing Faulkner, gave him a 1min buffer back to fourth, as he looked to lock in a podium finish.

"I made it through in one piece," Belk said of his run down the Millennium Track.

"Then it was a beautiful bike ride. A little wind. A little rain. It was a little soggy, but I'm here to tell the tale."

Another marking a successful return to multisport racing is Te Anau beekeeper Claire Bell (27), who won the open women's section, clocking 2hr 42min 44sec.

Earlier this year Bell was holding down third place in the open women's section of the Longest Day at the Coast to Coast and looking to threaten eventual champion Simone Maier and runner-up Elina Ussher, only for her rudder to snap on the kayak stage which eventually forced her withdrawal.

An injury followed, which has only just healed allowing her to return to competition.

"The run was way harder than I expected. It was pretty slippery," she said.

"The bike I really enjoyed. It was a good finish to the race."

In the associated duathlon sections, Kerrin Williams retained the open men's title in the 10.5km run, 26km bike duathlon, clocking 1hr 48min 58sec. First in the open women's section of this category was Sarah Davidson in 2hr 1min 6sec.

Alexandra's Peter Schaap won the inaugural kayak-bike duathlon, clocking 2hr 13min 52sec for the 14km kayak, 26km bike event. Merrilee Williams won the open women's tile in 3hr 24min 46sec.


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