Richard and Elina Ussher discover what’s so special about the Kaimai Classic, the Bay of Plenty multisport race attracting more than 600 starters.
Last weekend Elina and I headed away from Sunny Nelson and up towards the raging gales that seem to start as soon as you cross the Whangamoas on the way to Picton. The weather on the way up was probably the worst I’d ever had to travel in with kayaks strapped to the roof and with the maximum gusts recorded apparently around 190kmh we were lucky to have our kayaks in one piece when we finally arrived in Tauranga.
We managed to have a quick look around most of the course via car and a quick run around the first 5km loop which allayed any thoughts of a quick time as it was either straight up or straight down for 95 per cent of the course.
Race day and I immediately started getting s**t from Elina, and plenty of others as in my warm up I’d inadvertently managed to flick a rather large cow pat over my legs and I was a right sight – how professional!
At the start I became a victim of my wife’s sharp elbows and had to slot in a few back until the pack spread out enough for me to get past and head off in search of Dwarne Farley who had led out at a pace not far short of a full sprint.
There was a good group of us as we headed out on the short run and it gradually thinned down as we entered the bus tracks and with about a kilometre to go I finally managed to get a small break and headed into transition with a 20sec lead.
On to the mountainbike and it was pretty slippery for much of the course. I had a bit of a scare not long after the start when I got slightly off line and as I headed on to the road went straight over a drop about a metre high, luckily my speed carried me far enough over the ditch below that I avoided an embarrassing trip over the handlebars and I made a metal note to be a little more cautious.
The course quickly links on to a fun section of track around a small lake and then a mix of farmland and gravel roads. It wasn’t long before I joined the farm track beside the river and soon the kayak transition came into view.
I knew this would be the hardest portion of the race for me with not a huge amount of kayaking lately. I felt great for the first 20 minutes before hitting the incoming tide and my progress slowed dramatically. Not having paddled the course before I was quite unsure as to my progress and I was happy when the transition came into view without being passed by any of the chasers.
The time trial was a good chance to put a solid ride in. The course has several out and back legs which give you a great chance to access where the competition is. Dwarne and I passed a few minutes apart at the first of these and again 10 minutes later at the bottom turn around. On the way back towards the transition and it was good to be going with the rising breeze for a change and I also passed Elina on her way out.
The last run is quite tough with 8km of uphill and then a final 3km back down to the finish. Every 2km it was marked and when the first 2km sign came up it was a bit demoralising as I felt for sure I was more like 3km into the climb. I tried to keep up a reasonable tempo and at the final drink station I had a quick stop to take in the view and have a drink before winding it up for the final few kilometres.
A good day done for me and very shortly Dwarne came into view in second and in 3rd Pete O’Sullivan. Elina had a good day to take the win from Sonia Thompson and Hanna Lowe in 3rd.
We are off for some racing and training in Europe next week with the next race up the Are Extreme Challenge in Sweden followed by the Quelle Challenge Roth in July.