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Trans-Tasman rivalry is heating up for next month’s Kathmandu Coast to Coast with leading Australian multi-sport athlete Alex Hunt keen to take this year’s race to defending World Championship Longest Day champion Kiwi Sam Clark.
Back for his third crack at his favourite event Hunt is aiming to repeat his 2016 podium effort in the longest day event and is keen to put the pressure on Clark who looms as the race’s hot favourite after back to back wins.
“Sam is a total animal on this course and just so well suited to the race, not to mention he gets himself in pretty incredible shape for it,” the 26 year-old Tasmanian from Hobart said. “I’d love to be a lot closer to him on the run this year but it still terrifies me how fast he can paddle that river so hopefully the level is up and we all get pushed down nice and fast.”
“The Kathmandu Coast to Coast is my favourite race and I’ve looked forward to it for the past three years now. I love racing at home in Tassie and I love racing with my team in China, but the South Island is such a special place. There’s more history to the Kathmandu Coast to Coast than any other multisport race and it has some pretty impressive past winners.”
Hunt, who is sponsored by Kathmandu, leads a growing number of Australian’s entering the event. He is very keen to put what he says was a disappointing performance last year that still saw him finish a credible sixth behind him as he hopes to push defending champion Clark and put the experience of two years of racing over the tough course to good use.
“I want a better all-round performance than last year with no mistakes in the first bike, run hard and then hopefully keep it together in the paddle. Realistically beating Sam is about as hard as it gets, but hopefully I make it a decent race of it and manage to get back on the podium.”
Hunt says that as beautiful as the route from Kumara Beach on the South Island’s West Coast that heads over the rugged Southern Alps and then across the Canterbury Plains is, it is “unrelenting and when things don’t go your way it makes for a very long day.”
“I know it’s a bit of a cliché but I’ve found breaking the race up into its individual components and just focussing on whatever discipline you may be doing makes it mentally so much easier to manage.”
With less than a month to the one day event on Saturday 10 February Hunt has been focussing on getting the training miles in and has not put much thought into how he would like the race to pan out other than he wants to go fast.
“My transitions were pretty average last year, so that’s one improvement I need to make and I do not want miss the front bunch on the first bike leg, that’s a big one.”
“I really was pretty disappointed in my race last year. I had a bit of an upset stomach from something I picked up racing in the Defiance event before the Coast to Coast so it never really came together for me on the day.”
Hunt, who was part of an international team that won five of China's largest multi-sport events last year, is hoping some of that form and race experience combined with a good block of training sets him up for a good showing next month.
“I’ve been prepping well this year I think with a few longer paddles, more time on the TT (time trial) bike and I’m just really stoked to be coming back. I guess this time last year I woke up thinking about training for and racing the Defiance, but this year it’s just the Coast to Coast, so maybe that’ll help to.”
“The whole the concept of racing from one side of the Island to the other is just brilliant. Other races might change for whatever reason but the Coast to Coast is pretty much defined by its name.”