It was ‘Vive la France’ at the latest round of the Contact Tri Series with Aurelien Lebrun taking out the honours in the men’s race from Mike Phillips (Fendalton), Rangiora based Ironman triathlete Bryan Rhodes and Whangamata winner Hamish Hammond (Greytown).
The Contact Trophy race at Pegasus just north of Christchurch was raced over the sprint distance and sprint proved the operative word as the Frenchman made his move on the run around Lake Pegasus, overtaking first Phillips and then Rhodes in the race to the line.
Lebrun is preparing for a big season of World Cup racing in Europe and on the ITU circuit and was delighted with his win.
“I am here to train in New Zealand with the good weather for a few months while it is not so good at home in France. I am training here with Laurent (Vidal) and Andrea (Hewitt) and the conditions are very good.
“Today for me was about the run, the bike I am not used to the non drafting racing and as you could see the bike was not my strength today but I am feeling good on the run. I have some more speed to get into my legs with some more training but I enjoy this course and am very happy to come home with the win.”
Rhodes had led off the bike, using his Ironman strength to move from 4th into first at the end of the first lap of four but knew he was never going to hold on over such a short distance.
“I am a diesel compared to these guys, I can go at a good pace for a long time but don’t have the leg speed of Lebrun, he has the word ‘run’ in his name for goodness sake so he was always going to fly!
“That was a good tune up though for Challenge Wanaka next week, but this is also just great to see people travelling from around the country to our region, it is so important at this time with the constant aftershocks to have events like this continue to come to the area, this is my home town nowadays so it was important that I showed my support by racing today.”
Hammond perhaps showed the effects of a tough race in Whangamata less than a fortnight ago and was unable to respond first to Rhodes on the bike and then Lebrun on the run, having to settle for a close fourth behind Phillips and Rhodes.
In the women’s race it was 19 year old local Laura Wood who began her first summer in the U23 ranks in style, winning her first Contact Series race. Wood was delighted to win on her ‘home’ course.
“It was fantastic to win today, that is my first Contact Series win and to be able to do it in front of family and friends was great. My aim this year is to race well in the U23 category, this is my first year out of U19 so it will be tough but I am looking forward to it.
“The course was tough today, the wind was blowing really hard in parts of the bike course and then for part of the run, but it was like this yesterday when we came down to train so that made it a little easier for sure.”
Conditions dawned near perfect for the second edition of the race in the Pegasus Township, with the swim in the man-made lake, bike on the smooth new roads of Pegasus and the run around the Lake it made for a picturesque and enjoyable day for participants and supporters alike.
About the only impediment was a breeze which grew stronger throughout the morning, gusting strongly at times, causing some issues on the bike and sending one official tent flying in a strong gust, but otherwise participants enjoyed great conditions.
Also taking part on the day were former NZ Ironman winners Karyn and Scott Balance, the couple reside in Christchurch and took part in the event as a team. Scott has faced some serious heart related health issues in recent years but enjoyed the swim and bike, with Karyn running.
“This was a work thing really and I was encouraged by a few guys to get in and have a go and tried to help others to get involved. For some a 100m swim in the lake is a big issue so it is great to see them taking an event like this on,” said Scott.
While Scott has to manage his effort carefully and restricted his work to the swim and bike, the duo have clearly retained a little of the class from their racing heyday, winning the teams event with Karyn still showing a good turn of speed with Scott and infant daughter Olivia watching on from the sidelines.
In total there were well over 300 participants across many events from the children’s Contact 1:2:1, beginners Contact 3:9:3 and the Contact Trophy races for men, women and teams over the sprint distance.
Contact Tri Series
1 Aurelien Lebrun France 57:55
2 Mike Phillips Fendalton 58:27
3 Bryan Rhodes Christchurch 58:36
4 Hamish Hammond Greytown 58:37
5 Andrew Black Christchurch 1:01:01
1 Laura Wood Christchurch 1:07:54
2 Jaye Atkin Rangiora 1:09:25
3 Laura Steffens Christchurch 1:10:04
4 Kate Myers Christchurch 1:11:13
5 Leonie Kaywood Christchurch 1:11:17