Rabbit Is MTB Duathlon young and old stars
Sunday's mountainbike duathlon at Rabbit Island was an intriguing battle between one of the greatest adventure racers in the world and one of the most exciting teenage athletes in the country, with a depth of field that would be hard to find anywhere else in New Zealand.
Richard Ussher, 39, may have turned his attention to sports administration, but he still has some speed and strength in his legs. He's an attractive target for the likes of 15-year-old Cameron Jones, one of the most exciting talents in the country.
Elina Ussher is still racing at the top of her game with this year's Coast to Coast and last weekend's Crazyman titles under her belt.
Wayne Leighton may be 56, but he's head and shoulders above anyone in his age group nationally, as he proved with a huge victory in Xterra three weeks ago, which has him on course for a big result in the world championship of the cross country run and mountainbike discipline later this year.
While Elina Ussher justified her favouritism to win Crazyman in Wellington last weekend, Jones blindsided the pundits with second place, so had momentum coming into the Rabbit Island race yesterday.
In the opening 6km run, Ussher led out to build a 30-second lead over Jones, the pair opening up a gap on the rest of the field.
Stu Hodgkiss, Leighton, Elina Ussher and Jon Linyard came through in a tight bunch as they grabbed their bikes for a solid 21km bike ride through the Rabbit Island forest.
Jones soon latched on to Ussher's back wheel and the pair tussled it out over the lumpy surfaces of the forest.
Despite some chain problems, Jones was able to open a 15-second gap as the pair dropped their bikes and headed off for the final 3km run.
Through the tortuous tracks, Jones maintained his momentum, extending his lead by a slender 7 second to win in 1hr 22min 19 sec, with Ussher 23sec behind.
Hodgkiss put on the pressure to take third and win the 50-59 age group in 1hr 29min 39sec, 12 seconds ahead of Leighton, raising the question of what he could achieve nationally and internationally.
Elina Ussher (1.30.03) was next after a battle with Linyard (1.30.23).
In the short race over a 3km run, 11km bike, 3km run course, the scene was set for a battle between 17-year old Billy Bathgate and 13-year-old Luke Clatworthy.
In race on of the series, Bathgate won by seven seconds after a fightback from the younger athlete in the last run.
The same scenario played out this time, with Bathgate building a lead of 50 seconds on the first run and the bike ride, with Clatworthy coming back on the last run to fall short by nine seconds.
That means there's 16 seconds between the pair after two races and it's not out of the question for the younger competitor to claw back that time for a series win in race three.
The team of Matt and Blair Donald were third, followed by Jane Martin, daughter Lucy and friend Bella in another team.
Matt Reid took the M40-49 crown in fifth, with another team next (me and 11-year-old Adam Clatworthy), ahead of Karlos Fulford and the leading woman Carol Cooper.
Michelle Richardson was the second woman to finish, ahead of 10-year-old Florence McNabb, Ursula Schwarzenbach and Liz Coke.
Ross Mitchell had a convincing win in the walk-option race, ahead of Louise Crowe, Megan Robinson and Wendy Peterson.
Full results, nelsontriclub.co.nz.
Thanks to Peter Gibbs