Western Bay athletes performed with distinction at the Coast to Coast endurance event held on the South Island's West Coast last weekend.
Over recent years a growing number of multisporters have chosen the Western Bay as their home with easy access to trails for running, hills for cycling and rivers for kayaking to prepare for events like the world-famous Coast to Coast.
The gruelling South Island event is New Zealand's iconic multisport race. It's a race that's known to challenge, if not break all competitors who come before it. Anyone who crosses the finishing line can consider themselves a true champion no matter how long it takes them.
Starting on the beach near the tiny West Coast settlement of Kumara, the race consists of multiple stages that cross the Southern Alps before finishing 243km later on the beach in New Brighton, Christchurch. Done as either a one or two-day option, the course consists of a 2.2km run, 55km cycle, 30km mountain run, 15km road cycle, 70km whitewater kayak, and finishes with a 70km road cycle.
The best one-day athletes do all this in around 11 hours while many amateurs take around 20 hours spaced out over two days.
Tauranga kayaker Tim Taylor, with cyclist James McTavish from Tauranga and Gisborne runner George Williams, was part of Team Ruahine that won the two-day open men's challenge.
"The 70km whitewater paddle is a thing of both beauty and fear. The sheer distance makes it a challenge for anyone however when combined with your race nerves, the towering Waimakariri Gorge and numerous dead-ends through the braided section it's a tough paddle," Taylor said.
"One of the best moments is when you are coming down the first 10k section of braided river which is all that classic South Island rocky scene where the water just meanders through. Then it enters into the Waimakariri Gorge with these towering big gorges and it is very Lord of the Ringsy and the start of the major rapids section.
"As a whitewater paddler that is what I live for. I had never done the river before and thought this is absolutely awesome."
Team Ruahine had never raced together before so to take out a major title at the Coast to Coast is a notable achievement.
"James has done the longer Coast to Coast version before and he was absolutely on fire. In the last section into New Brighton he averaged 43km/h an hour which is phenomenal," Taylor said.
"George put down the sixth fastest time ever running over Goat's Pass so to be quickest among the 925 competitors is pretty outstanding really."
■Western Bay of Plenty results
Sam Clarke, Whakatane, winner of the 2018 (as well as 2017 and 2016) Elite Men's Longest Day
Oliver Thompson, winner of the Open Men's (18-39) Longest Day
Team Ruahine (Tim Taylor, George Williams, James McTavish), winner of Two-Day Open Men's Team
Team Jaggs (Dave and Sophie Jaggs), third place Open Tandem Teams
Bobbie Dean, sixth place Elite Men's Longest Day
Ben Tallon, second place Veteran Men's Longest Day
Corrinne O'Donnell, fifth place Elite Women's Longest Day
Anna Barret, seventh place Elite Women's Longest Day