Coast to Coast - International feel to Women’s Top 4
Despite the New Zealand borders remaining closed due to Covid19, the 2021 Kathmandu Coast to Coast Elite Women’s field will have a distinctly international feel to it.
Ali WIlson crossing the Otira River during the 2020 Kathmandu Coast to Coast
While now calling New Zealand home, the first four of the top ranked females are all expat Brits or Europeans.
2019 Champion Simone Maier, originally from Germany, has been ranked number one, closely followed by last year’s second place getter Ali Wilson, who now calls Tauranga home after growing up in North Yorkshire, England.
Christchurch’s Fiona Dowling hasn’t forgotten her Irish roots and will proudly don the tri colour flag on her bib, while four-time champion Elina Ussher is equally proud to represent both Finland and Nelson.
Te Anau beekeeper Claire Bell is the highest ranked born and bred kiwi, starting the run of home-grown talent which includes Wanaka’s Ailsa Rollinson in 6th and Christchurch’s Holly Weston in 7th.
Race Director Glen Currie says that while he had a tough job seeding the 2021 female field, he is expecting both Fiona Dowling and Claire Bell to be there at the pointy end of the race. “Claire just needs a little luck; she’s four races in now and knows the event and just needs things to go her way. In 2018 she was in 3rd before breaking a rudder in the kayak leg and slipping back to seventh.”
“Fiona on the other hand, who’d had a limited build up last year still came out and finished 3rd for the third year in a row, proving just how strong she is.”
Currie, a three-time Elite Men’s competitor himself, believes it takes a couple of races for athletes to get a real appreciation for the challenging course and demands of the Longest Day. “There are so many things that you need to go your way in order to win it, it’s an 11- or 12-hour race at the front of the women’s competition and last year only 3 minutes separated first and second and there was only another three minutes back to Fiona in third.”
One of those that has managed to buck that trend in recent times is Tauranga’s Ali Wilson.
The former triathlete surprised even herself in her debut race last year, leading for much of the race before eventually being reeled in by 2020 Women’s Champion Corrinne O’Donnell to finish runner up by just three minutes and five seconds.
“Ali is an exciting athlete to watch and she will have a far better idea of how the event will play out this year,” Currie commented. “But so too will all of her competitors. I don’t think they’ll want to let her get away on the bike like she did last year.”
Wanaka’s Simone Maier also returns to the start line, looking to shrug off last year’s performance after she was forced to withdraw during the kayak leg due to suffering from the cold.
“Simone’s like a finely tuned race car, she’s a great athlete and she proved that in 2019,” said Currie.
“She’s also a fierce competitor, so not making it to the finish line won’t have sat that well with her I’d suggest. So, as it has been for the past few years, the women’s Longest Day is again going to be a real battle and one to keep a very close eye on during the day.”
Nelson’s Elina Ussher returns for her 16th event in a row and will be sure to keep all other competitors honest. Ussher knows exactly what it takes to compete at this level. Since winning her third and fourth titles in 2016 and 2017, the 44-year-old has finished 2nd once and fourth on two other occasions. “Elina will have a good race, there is no doubt about that, and all the other women will be aware of that too. She is arguably the most experienced competitor out of the entire elite field, men included, the main question is whether she still has the speed in the legs to hold off the younger competitors.”
The winner of the 2021 women’s longest day will walk away with $10,000, while the prize money for both the second and third place getters has been increased this year to $4,500 and $2,500 respectively, which is equal to the prize money the men receive.
The 2 day Kathmandu Coast to Coast starts on Friday the 12th while the Longest Day gets underway on Saturday the 13th
Top 10 seeded women, 2020 Kathmandu Coast to Coast Longest Day
Simone Maier – Wanaka
Alison Wilson – Tauranga
Fiona Dowling – Christchurch
Elina Ussher – Nelson
Claire Bell – Te Anau
Ailsa Rollinson – Wanaka
Holly Weston – Christchurch
Liz McDougal - Nelson
Penzy Dindsdale - Napier
Tessa Aukje Dekker - Christchurch