Almost 400 endurance junkies will line up in Lower Hutt on Sunday for the 22nd running of Hutt City Crazyman. The kayak, mountain bike and run event is traditionally the high point of the Capital regions multisport scene, but the 2012 Crazyman will be anything but traditional.
Established in 1991, the Hutt City Crazyman is one of New Zealand's longest running multisport events. Past winners read like a who's-who of multisport: world champions such as Richard Ussher, Jill Westenra, Gordon Walker, Emily Miazga, Elina Ussher, Kristina Anglem, Alex Stewart and Steve Gurney have all won the annual Lower Hutt event.
Jill Westenra, who won the Crazyman way back in 1998, makes a return to the sport at this year's Hutt City Crazyman. But she'll being taking on a completely different event to the one she won 14 years ago. In fact every participant will be taking on a fresh new challenge in the 2012 Crazyman.
Increasing landowner and health and safety issues have forced organisers Michael Jacques and John Cussins to change the mountain bike section, which in turn forced them to also change the kayak and run. Whereas the Crazyman had been a tour of Wellington Harbour and the Hutt Valley's Eastern Skyline, now it will take in the Western Skyline through Belmont Regional Park.
"It's a big change," says Jacques. "We didn't do it lightly. But for the longevity of the event we thought it was better and simpler because we've always had great support from Hutt City Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council."
"In some ways it's gutting," says John Cussins. "No one likes to throw that sort of tradition away. But the other side is that the new course is pretty awesome."
On a course that is as spectacular as it is challenging, competitors from all ends of New Zealand will open up with a 13k kayak leg from Days Bay, along Wellington Harbour's eastern coastline to Petone Wharf, and up the Hutt River.
Kayaks are swapped for a 30k mountain bike ride up the Hutt River Trail to Dry Creek where they head into Belmont Regional Park, riding over Boulder Hill and Round Knob to the base of Belmont Trig.
Then it's into running shoes for the final 13k trail run around Belmont Trig and down Korokoro Stream to Petone Foreshore, eventually finishing at Petone Wharf.
Lower Hutt's James Coubrough was smiling when he heard about the new-look Crazyman. The national representative runner turned multisporter lives within a stone throw of most of the course and trains on sections of it almost every day.
Coubrough, who has won some of the North Island's premier races in the last 12 months and was a close fourth in his first attempt at the Speight's Coast to Coast world title race, has never won his hometown race. To do so he'll need to watch out for another Hutt Valley boy, Martin Leighton, who was third last year. But also for Marlborough's well performed Dan Moore.
Moore has been a big improver on the national scene in the last two years. Toward the end of this year's Speight's Coast to Coast he was in sixth place, not far behind Coubrough, when he was forced to withdraw due to an eye infection following surgery the previous month. So the Picton-based up and comer will be keen to rekindle their rivalry at the Crazyman.
The woman's race features the return of Jill Westenra. In an illustrious career Westenra represented New Zealand in triathlon, duathlon, mountain running and multisport and won the Speight's Coast to Coast four times. At age 47 she is still a contender in anything she enters, but 2010 Crazyman winner Helen Chittendon from Nelson will be keen to see how she ranks alongside one of the sports legends.
Another of the sports legends will be talking on the Crazyman on Sunday. At 72 years of age Lower Hutt's John Wood is the oldest person to have started the Crazyman and will be looking to be the oldest finisher.
Wood's daughter, Susy, a Commonwealth Games cyclist and national reprentative triathlete, actually won the Crazyman way back in 1996. Wood senior has also been a fixture on the national scene for more than 20 years, winning national masters title in triathlon, duathlon and running. The retired engineer even lives right outside the Crazyman kayak section, so like James Coubrough he'll have some home field advantage.
Others expected to shine include Marianne Archer and Sally and Helen Anderson, who are racing for their fifth consecutive win in the women's team race. Similarly brothers Bruce, Gordon and Gary Moller will be looking to defend their unbeaten record in among veteran teams on the Wellington scene.
Organisers are expecting close to 400 competitors for the 56k tour through the icon outdoor elements of Wellington's Hutt City. The event includes the full kayak, run and mountain bike for teams and individuals, and also a run and mountain bike duathlon option for non-kayakers.
The 22nd Hutt City Crazyman starts at 8:00am on Sunday morning on Days Bays in Eastbourne. Entries will be taken up to 5:00pm on Saturday at VIC Cycles in Lower Hutt. For further details visit www.crazyman.co.nz or Ph: 0275 244 821.