The home town favourite came through to win the Wanaka round of the Contact Tri Series, a race affectionately dubbed the ‘Doddsy International Challenge’, much to the delight of the huge crowd lining the course and the bars and restaurants on the beautiful lake front destination in a race that continues to grow in reputation and popularity with the local crowd and visitors alike.
Tony Dodds and his supporters and local Wanaka businesses have for some years now put an added incentive on the line in the men’s Contact Cup race with $10,000 cash going to the winner. The catch is if Doddsy was to win the money, he would donate it immediately to Cystic Fibrosis, in honour of his brother in laws brother who passed away from the disease a few years ago.
The race was full of intrigue the moment that Dodds rode off in a group of four at the start of the tight and technical 20km 8 lap bike course, leaving Ryan Sissons 25 seconds behind in another group of four and chasing his good mate.
And try as they might, the chasers couldn’t bridge the gap with Dodds, Robert Huisman, former Youth Olympic Games gold medallist Aaron Barclay and NZ U23 rep Mike Phillips maintaining their advantage over the Sissons group, one that included NZ U23 athlete Bryce McMaster.
Drama struck though on the last lap of the bike, with Sissons cramping right in front of the big crowd and coming to a screaming halt, clutching at his left calf. The Aucklander lost over a minute recovering before riding on, but his chances were gone.
And that left the home town favourite to race away and win the race for the first time with the cash on the line, and in the process ensure that the $10,000 bonus prize put up by his supporters and in particular www.nztri.co.nz would go to charity, a promise that Tony Dodds made when first putting the money up three years ago and finally one he could keep to Cystic Fibrosis.
“That is so good, really special to win today – at last! The crowd was just so loud and so incredible throughout, especially passing through the main part of town twice on the run. To be honest I was trying not to think too much about it when I was running through, I had to concentrate.
“I had to be a bit of a pain and not take too many turns on the bike though, I thought it would be a case of waiting for Ryan and then racing him so I wasn’t keen on doing too much work which probably didn’t make me favourite with the guys riding with me but I had to be focused today if I was going to get the result.
“I can taste blood in my mouth, so I guess that means I was pushing pretty hard, this is a great result and a great day again in Wanaka.”
Sissons was feeling comfortable on the bike, despite the gap to the lead group.
“I was prepared to give away 30 or 40 seconds off the bike, I have been running well but as soon as I got cramp that was it, I didn’t want to pull out though, this is a great race and Doddsy, Wanaka and Tri NZ put so much into it there was no way I wanted to pull out. My initial problem was going too far left on the swim and losing contact, that cost me some vital time heading into transition and from there we were chasing.”
Christchurch’s NZ U23 athlete Mike Phillips ran strongly for second place, while McMaster ran like the wind to finish a strong third, rueing the fact the chasers couldn’t close the gap to the leaders on the bike.
Earlier on a stunning day in the Central Otago holiday hotspot, Kate McIlroy stamped her class on women’s race, making it consecutive wins in the series after victory at Pegasus last week.
McIlroy emerged from the water in a large lead group of seven, a group that included Nicky Samuels (Wanaka) and Rebecca Kingsford (Tirau). Once on the bike though those three gapped the field, with Maddie Dillon crashing on an early lap to lose contact, albeit the Aucklander immediately remounted to continue.
The front three though resembled a train such was their power and pace with the podium well and truly sorted before the 5km run, the only question was in what order?
McIlroy threw the answer out there very quickly, emerging from transition with a 10 metre lead that she only extended throughout the tight and technical course, twice passing in front of a huge crowd enjoying a stunning day.
“That felt good today and with Pegasus last week it is great to have a couple of race wins to start the year. The crowd was amazing and the atmosphere was great.
Contact Tri Series
Elite Men (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run)
1 Tony Dodds Wanaka 54:30
2 Mike Phillips Christchurch 55:04
3 Bryce McMaster Auckland 55:19
4 Robert Huisman Invercargill 55:49
5 Aaron Barclay Gore 56:34
1 Kate McIlroy Wellington 58:05
2 Nicky Samuels Wanaka 58:35
3 Rebecca Kingsford Tirau 58:51
4 Maddie Dillon Auckland 1:02:21
5 Nicole Van der Kaay Auckland 1:03:34