Surely the fittest and fastest couple on the planet, Laurent Vidal and Andrea Hewitt proved victorious in a stunning days racing at the latest round of the Contact Tri Series in front of huge crowds in Wanaka today.
The men's race was dubbed the 'Doddsy Challenge' with local boy Tony Dodds boosting the prize money from two thousand dollars to ten grand in a winner takes all pressure cooker. And Dodds disappoint in front of his home fans, supporters and the local businesses that had contributed to the prize pool, leading out of the water and riding prominently in a group that included Kris Gemmell, Vidal, Ryan Sissons and Aurelien LeBrun, winner in Christchurch last week.
Once on the run it was Dodds, Vidal and Sissons who broke clear, with flying Frenchman Aurelien LeBrun. As he did last year though the likeable Vidal kicked clear on the run to win back to back Wanaka titles and make it a double for himself and partner Andrea Hewitt.
"I don't think I stole it today, I went out and get it. The crowd was awesome, I really appreciate it I know I am not the favourite here but they gave me and the whole field great support. Doddsy is amazing; the race is amazing, so well done to him and to the organisers. I'm glad I won; everyone was hoping Doddsy might win, but he is on the podium so that is good too.
"On the run Tony was looking at me at the place I moved last year, so I didn't' go, I waited for the hill and pushed then, I had to work very hard to be honest. It was a very hard race."
Sissons finished strongly to kick clear of Dodds into second place and spoke of a good day.
"We spat a few out on the swim, it was hard and choppy but I got out where I needed to be and in the front pack; that was key to a good race. I did a fair bit on the bike, keeping the pace solid; maybe I did a little too much. On the run I came into my own on the final lap and started closing in but ran out of time."
Dodds was philosophical in finishing third, knowing that he had given his all in front of a huge home crowd.
"Laurent is the nicest guy around so you have to give him credit, he raced really well. I really wanted the money today so I could give it back to the community but I was getting attacked every corner on the bike by the likes of Laurent, Gemmell and others. But we managed to close the gap every time.
"Then on the run it was so hard, we just went for it. I'm really proud though, it has been a great day, a great race and an amazing crowd. I gave it absolutely everything, I went out fast, held on but the Frenchman did it again."
In the women's race it was a group of six athletes who emerged together from the swim, a group that included Andrea Hewitt (Christchurch), Debbie Tanner (Auckland), Sophie Corbidge (Tirau) and a strong representation from Holland in Rachel Klamer, Dane Boterenbrood and Sarissa De Vries. Corbidge though found the going tough and lost contact on the first lap of 8 on the 20km bike leg and De Vries followed soon after to leave a lead group of four, it was Holland against New Zealand.
With strong cyclist Nicky Samuels not competing due to a second bout of heart surgery to repair an arrhythmia problem the group stayed together throughout, no one in the lead group was prepared to risk a solo effort into the strong North Westerly.
The group of four exited the bike together and headed out on the run but as is her trademark, Hewitt put in an early burst to take the lead with Tanner and Klamer settling in 10m behind. That was the way it stayed for the first two laps until a great burst from the Dutchwoman drew her level with Hewitt while Tanner too closed the gap on the final lap.
It was Hewitt though who prevailed, outsprinting Klamer to the line to win by the barest of margins with Tanner in a good early season hit out close behind in third.
"This is a great, hard race to start the season", said Hewitt. "It is always good to come to Wanaka, we are often here training but racing is awesome, the Dutch gave a good challenge and a great sprint finish. I was taken by surprise and thought I could be in trouble here but the pace dropped off a little and I had the pace in the end to win, the crowd certainly help lift me, I have been training pretty hard and this is a great way to start 2012."
Klamer was delighted with her race, showing the improvement under NZ triathlon legend John Hellemans who is coaching the Dutch programme.
"It was amazing, I saw Andrea and thought I am coming closer to her but I knew she was playing a game with me, in the end I thought okay, I will try and go now, I gave everything I had but she had a better sprint than me. This was amazing, I missed some Dutch people all I could hear was Kiwi, Kiwi!"
Conditions were testing for the athletes in Wanaka today, with wind at times causing plenty of chop on the Lake and leading to a few scary moments on the bike on the tight and technical bike course.
But none of that could deter the huge and noisy crowd lining Ardmore Road, enjoying the warm sunshine and the great hospitality in front of one of the greatest landscape vistas you will find anywhere in the world.
Earlier in the day a record field of age groupers enjoyed their day with children in the Contact 1:2:1 and the beginner Contact 3:9:3 but the huge crowds will remember for a long time the world class racing to end the day with Hewitt and Vidal the best of high quality fields.
Contact Tri Series, Wanaka
1. Andrea Hewitt (Christchurch) 1:01:12
2. Rachel Klamer (Holland) 1:01:13
3. Debbie Tanner (Auckland) 1:01:38
4. Dane Boterenbrood (Holland) 1:01:56
5. Sophie Corbidge (Auckland) 1:04:30
1. Laurent Vidal (France) 55:25
2. Ryan Sissons (Auckland) 55:34
3. Tony Dodds (Wanaka) 56:04
4. Aurelien LeBrun (France) 56:14
5. Jan Van Berkel Winkel 56:35
Full results will be posted to www.triseries.co.nz later in the evening.