Motatapu Off-Road Sporting Event “challenging but rewarding” given inclement weather conditions

10/03/2015 by Steve Knowles

Athletes competing in last weekend’s iconic Motatapu Off-Road Sporting Event near Queenstown embraced the elements in what was one of the event’s most challenging course conditions.

With heavy rain the morning of the race, the course was muddier and wetter than previous years, which appealed to many competitors citing “the challenging and brutal course” a great personal challenge.

Throughout the day organisers with a team of officials experienced in local rivers, monitored the rising river levels as the morning rain flushed down the valleys.

Near midday, high river levels meant it was unsafe for competitors to continue crossing the last river on the course. As a result, and for the continued safety of all competitors, a course diversion was put in place 2km up the Arrow River which meant competitors completed two different routes on the day.

Due to no cell coverage at the diversion point, final results were not immediately available. Final results for our top three in each category are listed below.

Lagardère Unlimited Oceania CEO Dave Beeche said the race went well given the harsh conditions and that he and the team were happy with the day overall.

“The Motatapu is an off-road event in an alpine environment and so there is always a risk that the elements may play havoc on the day. The safety of our athletes, volunteers and spectators is our priority at all times.”

Motatapu 2015 Speight's Mountain Bike racers cross the finish line

“Once we saw the potential weather patterns changing, we implemented extra medics on all aid stations as well as experienced river officials at various check points along the way to monitor the conditions. As an added measure we also asked a number of competitors early on in the day as they crossed the finish line what their thoughts were on the rivers,” Mr Beeche added.

“We made the decision to implement the high river level route once we believed the levels were too high to continue safely and we’re confident we made the right decision to divert the course.”

“Motatapu race day for the last 10 years has typically been dry, balmy and calm and so the rain certainly added a new element for competitors and athletes.

"Given the weekend’s conditions, we’re ready for anything next year, though of course like everyone taking part we’re already hoping for a blue bird day for Motatapu 2016,” added Mr Beeche.

With winner timings now confirmed, Wanaka triathlete Dougal Allan backed up a strong performance in Challenge Wanaka just two weeks ago to come in first place in the XTERRA UDC Triathlon, beating 24 year old Oliver Shaw with a time of 4:27:41.

Competing in his first Motatapu XTERRA UDC Triathlon – he’s done the Speight’s Mountain Bike race twice - Allan said he was feeling pretty fit coming into the race, despite two big races in recent weeks.

“It was a fantastic race. I was really happy with my swim, but then the bike and run felt a little hard and I was always looking for Oliver to pass me. But then I thought, do you know what, do you want another 2nd or 3rd placing or do you want to win this.”

“This is a really great race and with today’s weather, people are even more jubilant coming across the finish line. Full credit to everyone out there today, just getting to the finish line is a huge achievement.”

Taking out the female elite title in the XTERRA UDC Triathlon, Wanaka locals Simone Maier and Jess Simson made a pact half way through the 47km mountain bike ride that they’d “finish the race together”.

Both athletes competed in the Motatapu off the back of strong performances in Challenge Wanaka and the Coast to Coast and both admitted to “feeling a little tired”. The duo crossed the line with a skip and a hop to finish neck and neck with a joint first place time of 5:32:36 - the first time in race history there has been a joint winner.

“The conditions weren’t that bad,” said Ms Maier. “I was expecting a lot worse but it was fine, I was just feeling tired after Challenge and also lack of sleep watching my friends compete in Godzone this week. So it was nice that Jess and I could sit back and chat on the ride.”

Coast to Coast winner Jess Simson competed in the XTERRA UDC Triathlon for the first time and said it was “really cool to finish first equal”.

“We were both feeling like sacks in this event.

"Normally we can blitz this sort of thing but we know our bodies are tired. We’re both really proud because we’ve both done some big efforts lately and to be able to come and do this in a decent time is sweet. We’re happy,” said Ms Simson.

“It was quite muddy on the bike and the run was a bit slippery, but the swim was nice being calm and the water was warm. There’s something quite cool about going from Wanaka to Arrowtown under your own steam. Normally you drive that. The Motatapu valley is extremely typical of Central Otago, it’s quite beautiful.”

The winner of the inaugural Torpedo7 Adventure Run Solo event was 36 year old Jason Schlarb from Colorado, who said the race was “exciting and truly lived up to its name”.

“It was difficult, like it should be, very steep, direct and technical and the high water for the last 20km made it extra exciting. This is exactly the kind of race I’d specifically picked out to come to New Zealand and do.”


Motatapu 2015 Torpedo7 Adventure Runners embrace the Motatapu countryside

“It’s a very special race. The beautiful views, that tussock mountain side is something that is really one of a kind, and also the technical nature and the volume of climbing is very unique,” said Mr Schlarb.

Mr Schlarb crossed the finish line with a time of  06:56:52.

Queenstown Trails Trust CEO Mandy Kennedy said she was “incredibly proud of all the athletes, supporters and volunteers” who toughed it out on race day.

“Everyone that turned out to compete, volunteer, cheer and whoop at the start and finish line deserves a medal for turning out on Saturday. One thing we can’t control is the weather, but we can control our attitudes.”

“I am just blown away by how upbeat everyone remained given the tough weather conditions. Volunteers got up early at 4am and braved the rain to check people in and many were on course in those conditions all day. What legends,” said Ms Kennedy.

“Then there’s the athletes and supporters who embraced the conditions and just raced a good race. We’ve already had great feedback about how fun the mud was for a change, adding something different to the event.”

“For me Saturday summed up the iconic nature of Motatapu and those involved. Even in the rain people came out on the day and made it the great event it is. We’re already looking forward to 2016 – with better weather of course.”

Official Motatapu 2015 results for top three in each category below:
* denotes high water finish time

Icebreaker Off-Road Marathon
Vajin Armstrong *               03:01:11
Dominic Channon *            03:14:24
Alasdair Saunders  *          03:15:33

Mel Aitken *                         02:59:54 - Note Mel is overall winner
Louise Beckingsale *            03:30:53
Sara Wood *                          03:43:53

Speight’s Mountain Bike
Male - Wilcox Green Finish
Mike Crawford        02:18:00
James Williamson  02:18:55
Brent Miller            02:21:41

Female - Wilcox Green Finish
Kate Fluker             02:40:23
Relda McDowall      02:43:21
Ingrid Richter          02:52:19

XTERRA UDC Triathlon
Dougal Allan 04:27:41
Oliver Shaw 04:33:54
Adam Wilson * 04:37:04

Female - Wilcox Green Finish
Joint First:      05:32:36
Jess Simson and Simone Maier

3rd Kim Beckinsale  *   05:33:24

E-Type Engineering's GSC            05:15:28
Wakatipu High School Staff           05:18:06
Mt Pleasant Expresso                    05:19:57

Torpedo7 Adventure Run
Glenn and Malc   *               08:00:36
Us two                  *              08:00:55

Jason Schlarb  *                   06:56:52
Grant Guise *                       07:03:58
Tim Wright *                         07:39:01 Miner’s Trail
Bruyas Maxence *      01:11:17
Christopher Dunell *   01:12:01
Richard Ford *            01:14:38

Tania McWilliams  *   01:15:06
Sally Currie *             01:27:16
Erin Ritchie  *            01:25:37