Press Release: Mark Leishman.
6th October 2008.
Kiwi XTERRA athletes proved their chances at October 26th's World Championships are in great shape, after dominating New Zealand's premier Mountainbike Marathon, the Whaka 100 over the weekend.
Fresh off the back of 7 weeks training in the south of France with Cameron Brown, it was Hamilton's Scott Thorne (NZ XTERRA#3), who lead home an impressive field to take his 2nd win in the event, followed home by friend and arch rival Mark "Cabin" Leishman (current XTERRA NZ #2). The pair were trailed in by National XC champion Stu Houltham (also of Palmerston North) in 3rd.
Recognized as New Zealand's premier Mountainbike Marathon, the gruelling 100km event drew a classy field of athletes, all with an eye on the $1000 bonus on offer for the first athlete able to break the magic 5hr barrier. Spurred on by the incentive Leishman, Thorne, and Houltham forced a torrid pace that obliterated not only the rest of the field, but the race record as well. All three went under the magic 5hr mark, Thorne eventually smashing the record by more than 20min. Finishing in an amazing 4hr43, followed home by Leishman some 4 minutes later.
"Awesome" was Thorne's reaction. "I haven't really felt that flash since returning from France, and I almost didn't front for the race. But I had a great sleep last night, woke up refreshed, and the rest is history!"
Leishman's reaction was similar. "I wasn't sure how my endurance was, as all my prep has been for XTERRA, a 3hr triathlon. Last time I spent 5hrs on a bike was at this race last year! But I was pretty keen for someone to break the 5hrs though, so drilled it for the first couple of hours to ensure we were on pace for the record. I'm happy. At the end of the day Scott was just stronger."
The race was also an eye opener for National Champion Houltham, who pushed the two Triathletes hard, but in the end couldn't match their endurance. " I had a great ride," commented Houltham, "but I just haven't done enough of these marathon events to sustain that pace for that long. Next year!"
Thorne and Leishman then promptly bemused their exhausted rivals as they pulled on their running shoes for a 'quick' 30min gallop in the forest.
Leary also looking strong
The shorter 50km support event also showcased NZ's XTERRA talent, as again, athletes prparing for Maui stole the show from their more fancied rivals.
In the men's event, it was Carl Jones (NZ XTERRA 18-24 champion) going head to head with NZ junior MTB representative Ash Hough. Battling neck and neck, in the end it was Jones who would pull away for the win. And in the women's, it was no different.
Mountainbike specialists took a back seat as Leishman's partner Nic Leary, (NZ XTERRA Elite #3) went head to head with NZ Elite MTB U23 #1 (and XTERRA NZ 18-24 champion) Monique Avery. Locked in battle throughout, Leary struck her killer blow on the penultimate climb, breaking free to establish a 2 minute gap. However, Leary was lead astray as she followed two other riders (not in the race, but who had joined the action) who took a wrong turn.
Despite crossing the line a comfortable winner, upon realising the mistake, Leary removed herself from the results. Disappointed, but happy to "bank it as a solid training day, and look forward to a better result in Maui."
The NZ XTERRA contingent all meet up again in just over a fortnight on Makena Beach, on the island of Maui. As they line up to do battle with 500 of the best XTERRA athletes from around the globe as they challenge for the 2008 XTERRA World Championship.