Five-time Champion Returns

Postby Melissa_Theuriau on Mon 23/Dec/13 10:15am

When the 32nd Speight's Coast to Coast lines up on the South Island’s West Coast in February, Nelson's Richard Ussher will be lining up for his 12th time looking for his sixth win.

Since his debut in 2000, Ussher has won the world title One-Day race in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2012. In 2013, however, the former Olympic skiier could only watch as Wanaka’s Braden Currie romped away with the crown. But the former champion admits to defeat making him more motivated than ever for 2014.

“Right now Braden Currie is certainly the benchmark in Multisport,” said Ussher from his Nelson home. “As soon as I heard he was racing I was keen to come back and hopefully try to push him a bit harder than in 2013.

Ussher had lined up in 2013 feeling burned out after a decade of racing on the world circuit, but says, “This year things have been going really well and I’ve seen the form gradually rising back to where I know it can be.”

Ussher will need to be at his best too. The world championship One Day race has seen a changing of the guard in recent years, with Ussher the only contender who raced against the likes of nine-time winner Steve Gurney and three-time winner Gordon Walker.

Braden Currie has been the best of the new breed, but right behind him is Whakatane’s Sam Clarke. The 23 year old was fourth in 2013 but pushed Ussher hard at last October’s Motu Challenge where both men broke the record, but Ussher only took the lead in the final hour to win the seven hour, 177k race by just 1min 49secs.

Ussher will be 37 on race day and faces athletes who improve every time they take to a start line. But race director Robin Judkins warns not to count the five-time winner out.

“It really is going to be a classic case of youth versus experience,” says Judkins. “I mean, when Richard won his first Speight’s Coast to Coast in 2005, Braden Currie was 19 and Sam Clarke just 15!”

“But the Speight’s Coast to Coast is a race that favours experience and planning as much as raw talent,” warns Judkins.

“Anyone who finishes in the top five or 10 probably has the talent to win, but no one has more experience than Richard and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down either.”

There will, however, be a question mark over Ussher. A month before the Speight’s Coast to Coast he is also racing the Challenge Wanaka iron-distance triathlon.

“There is a month between them” says Ussher,"so I’m hopeful that will be enough time. But it still means some added risk in managing everything through to race day.”

The 32nd Speight’s Coast to Coast is scheduled for February 14-15. Racing starts on Kumara Beach, midway between Hokitika and Greymouth, and finishes 243k later on Sumner Beach in Christchurch.

The feature Multisport World Championship is contested on Saturday February 15, with almost 150 entrants taking on the 3k run, 55k road cycle, 34k mountain run, 15k cycle, 67k white water kayak and 70k cycle in one day.

The Two Day race starts on February 14 with the cycle and mountain run, then concludes on February 15 with the cycle, kayak and cycle sections.
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