SAM Clark’s exuberant finish-line celebration was the only thing that matched his ferocity in claiming a second consecutive Coast to Coast title on Saturday.
Ohope’s Clark trailed race leader, and three-time winner, Braden Currie by 12 minutes on the kayak leg on the Waimakariri River, as Currie appeared to be building on a lead he had steadily increased throughout the 243-kilometre multisport race. But Clark surged, cutting the deficit to less than four minutes when he exited the river and then powered past Currie on the 70km road cycle to Christchurch.
Clark finished in 11 hours two minutes with Currie finishing in 11.10.
Fatigue and satisfaction combined in a flood emotion of at the finish line.
“I knew he wasn’t that far ahead,” Clark said.
“I dug deeper than I’ve ever dug before, passed him and never looked back except for about half a dozen times.
“I never stopped fighting. It’s not over till it’s over. Never stop fighting, never, never give up, that’s what I did.
“I’ve never focused so hard in my life. To be the best you’ve got to beat the best and I bloody did it.
“It’s been a three-year mission or vendetta to not just get a victory, but a real victory against world class competition.”
Currie was superb on the 33km mountain run, a discipline Clark said he could not have gone toe-to-toe with against the former champ.
“I paid a lot of attention to maintain nutrition on the river, and I needed it. As soon as I knew I was gaining time it spurred me on to go harder.”
Clark won last year’s race, his maiden title, by nearly an hour and relished the challenge Currie brought.
Clark’s winning time on Saturday was over half an hour faster than last year.
“Nothing comes easy, but it is the second placegetter that really makes the race.
“This year I really had to fight for it. Over the past three years I have had a similar approach to the race.
“I didn’t change a lot. You can’t let it get to you what other people get to you, you only have power over how fast you are going.”
Clark has achieved notable success across a variety of events and is not sure what his immediate future holds – apart from taking some well-earned rest.
“I need to sit down and have a serious think about what I am going to do. I am probably going to pull out of Ironman New Zealand.
“I don’t want to go just to get the shirt. I have not done the work for it. So now need to take a break. I am not sure what lies ahead, multisport is my first love. But I will not rest on my laurels.
“I have no intention of being the guy that goes back and wins the Coast to Coast 10 times.
“There are so many other things out in the world that I can do that I would enjoy just as much.
To do it properly and to do it justice you have to go pretty nuts. I have pushed myself pretty hard.”
Also in the one-day race was Whakatane’s Daniel Jones who placed seventh in 12.29. Nelson’s Elina Ussher claimed her fourth women’s title in 13.11.
Ussher was 20 minutes faster than her winning time in 2016.
Student happy with first go
THE young guns blazed a trail in the Coast to Coast two-day race.
Two 16-year-olds led the field as the race was won by Nelson athlete Cameron Jones who finished in 12 hours 19 minutes, while Whakatane’s Oliver Thompson claimed the runner-up spot in 12.56.
Other Whakatane athletes included Jarrod Teddy who placed fifth in 13.15 while Di Brown was runner-up in the veteran female section in 16.24.
The Trident High School team of Renae Morgan, Kaitlin Blackwood and Carla Reid competed in the three-person event where they were 18th and the first of two female school teams. The trio won the Kathmandu Coast to Coast School’s Summit Academy Package last year which has aided them in their race preparation.
Thompson said he was happy with the result.
“I’m extremely happy with my result. I know I gave it my all and the result was worth the effort.
“I knew the race was going to be tough physically and mentally, I knew the cycling was going to test my strength against Cameron Jones because he is an insane cyclist.
“The whole atmosphere of the race is amazing. At Klondyke corner and at the finish line it’s really cool being around some of the world’s toughest athletes.
“The scenery is amazing although you can’t really stop to enjoy it. I was stoked to have the fastest overall two-day paddle.
“I will definitely be doing the two day for the next year or two and I plan to get amongst the big boys in the longest day after I’ve finished with school.”