Women’s leader: ‘All I have to do is stay upright’

Dunedin's Courtney Hawke at Klondyke at the completion of the first day of the two-day individual...
Dunedin's Courtney Hawke at Klondyke at the completion of the first day of the two-day individual category at the Kathmandu Coast to Coast yesterday. Courtney is flanked by her support crew of John Hawke (left), of Nelson and Ben Friel, of Christchurch. PHOTO: WAYNE PARSONS
Trying to stay upright on the paddle stage and enjoying the day is the goal for Dunedin paramedic Courtney Hawke as she attempts to win the open women's two-day individual title at the Kathmandu Coast to Coast later today.

Hawke, who turned 25 in the days leading up to the first day of racing yesterday, was the big mover in the open women's field when she finished the first day of competition in 6hr 33min 55sec, 1min 27sec ahead of Sophie Rutherford (Culverden) and Ella Julian.

With very little separating the three women, today’s 67km kayak stage may play a big part in determining final placings.

Taking a relaxed approach off the beach on to the 55km cycle stage it was not until Hawke’s competitive spirit kicked in that she took control of the race.

"The run off the beach was good. There was a big group in front of me so I didn't really know where I was sitting, so I just cruised into transition wanting to enjoy my day."

But after transition to the cycle stage to Aikens Corner, Hawke got into race mode.

"I got on the bike and found there was no-one really around me and I thought ‘Aww crap, this is not going to be good’."

She then powered her way up to join a group of riders 100m ahead and, once joining them, set about playing a part in catching a larger bunch of about 30 riders.

Once this happened, Hawke said the group worked really well and it helped her become the first female through transition to the run.

"When I hit the run my thoughts were to go out there and enjoy the day."

And once overcoming leg cramps on the gruelling slog up to Goat Pass, Hawke was relatively untroubled on the run down to Klondyke.

"Apart from the cramps and a couple of good falls, overall it was a pretty good day. The weather was awesome. The crowd was great. All I have to do is stay upright on the river."

In the open men's section, elite junior Finn McKenzie (Blenheim) made sure he stayed out of trouble to hold a a handy lead going into the second day of competition, involving a 15km bike, 67km kayak and 70km bike to the finish at New Brighton.

McKenzie, 19, stopped the clock at Klondyke at the conclusion of the first day’s racing — involving a 3km run off the beach, 57 bike and 33km alpine run over Goats Pass — in 5hr 9min 18sec, to hold a 3min 20sec lead over Sam King, 23, of West Melton.

McKenzie and King were contenders from the start, mixing it up with a strong breakaway bunch of 15 riders on the cycle stage. McKenzie in particular backed himself to control proceedings up front, and headed out on the alpine stage with a 40sec lead.

"I'm bloody stoked with that. Executed my plan perfectly", McKenzie said.

Zefa Fa'avae (Nelson) announced his arrival on the multisport scene with an emphatic victory in the 30.5km alpine stage, completing the journey in 3hr 14min 49sec, almost 7min faster than his legendary multisport father, Nathan, whose best on the course was 3hr 21min.

First home in the women's section was Maggie Lennox (Tasmania) in 3hr 48min 16sec, setting up what could possibly be an Australian one-two, with her partner, Alex Hunt, one of the favourites for the Longest Day title that was due to start on the beach near Kumara at 6am today.