(Posted - 03 Aug 2012)
While the Anaconda Adventure Race national Series kicks off in Noosa, Queensland, next weekend (11-12 August) Kiwi interest will likely fast forward to the Augusta outing in Western Australia in November, with the announcement of the trio who will make up the New Zealand team vying for the hotly contested Trans Tasman Trophy.
Last year’s Anaconda Series runner-up, Wanaka-based Braden Currie, will be joined in the West by 28 year-old Xterra gun Nic Leary from Rotorua and 22 year-old Whakatane local, Sam Clark.
The threesome will head to Augusta with a weight of expectation following Team New Zealand’s breakthrough win in 2011, captained by multisport guru Richard Ussher. Last year’s triumph over the Aussies was the first win for the Kiwis in four stoushes.
“I think we still prefer the under-dog status," says Nic of the suggestion that her team will go in as favourites this year. “We’re still a trio of relative rookies given we are without our ace in Richard Ussher. But we look forward to matching it with the best of the Aussies on their turf."
Rotorua-based Nic is the only member of the Kiwi team without Anaconda Adventure Race experience, Sam Clark having taken third in the once-off New Zealand edition of the series in 2010 and Braden Currie nearly tilting the series title with a first on the Gold Coast last year followed by a third in Augusta (WA) and a second in Lorne (Vic). Currie’s results were enough for him to take second place for the overall series in 2011.
The Trans Tasman Trophy is conducted annually as part of the Anaconda Adventure Race at Augusta to see which country can claim to be the best adventure racing nation. A designated team consists of two males and one female. Each athlete competes as an individual with their cumulative times discerning the overall Trans Tasman winner.
The New Zealand Team was selected based on results at New Zealand’s multisports championships, the Expand-A-Sign 3D Rotorua Off-Road Winter Multisport Festival. With the winners of that race, Richard and Elina Ussher, unable to compete in November, duties fell to podium place getters Currie (2nd), Clark (3rd) and Leary (Women’s 2nd).
The Australian team will be decided by placings at the Noosa Anaconda Adventure Race on August 12th with the first individual female and first plus second individual males (who are Australian citizens) offered a position.
To anyone following the Anaconda Series last year, Wanaka-based Braden Currie is no stranger, the 25 year-old exploding from the woodwork to take a surprise win in the Gold Coast event. That performance marked a return to serious racing for Currie. “My first three races (back) were the Anaconda race series last year. The race format and style were perfect for my lead up for a tilt at the Coast to Coast."
Currie placed third there before taking first at the Motutapu Xterra Tri, automatically qualifying him for the World Xterra Championships, in October in Hawaii. “I have decided to put everything into training and competing for at least the next eight months and see where it takes me," says Currie, whose Xterra ambitions will no doubt serve Team Kiwi well in Augusta come November.
“I’m really looking forward to racing in Augusta again. I enjoy the course down there, especially the intense run start through the boulders," says Currie, who notably smashes all in the field on the run course. “It will also be awesome to represent New Zealand, as I missed out on this last year. It will be a good challenge, especially since Richard Ussher is not competing, meaning we are going to have to dig deep to challenge the Australian team. But no doubt Sam, Nic and I can pull it out of the bag and give them a good smashing, as us Kiwis do best."
A self-described “quintessential Kiwi farm girl", team mate Nic Leary has enjoyed a varied and successful sporting career. As a senior Otago rugby representative at University, Nic states it was her “failure to grow upward, or outward" that shifted her interest to endurance sports.
Along with a friend, she decided to tackle the Coast to Coast in 2004. Both were keen to run but of course one had to do the kayak stage. “I lost the game of rock/scissors/paper and hence had to learn to paddle, fast," says Nic.
Her first taste of multisport was an enjoyable one and she went on to compete in more races while settling into her job as a physiotherapist.
In 2008, Nic discovered the sport of mountain biking and rapidly rose to join the lead pack. By early 2009 she was ranked #2 in XC and marathon MTB in NZ, and won the NZ Xterra (off road triathlon) championship. In 2010 she took out the NZ and Oceania Elite women’s MTB championships as well as her second Xterra NZ title.
Taking her racing overseas, Nic competed on the World Cup Xterra circuit, improving her world ranking to inside the Top-40. Illness and injury took her out the 2011 season but she is determined to get back to her winning ways in 2012/13.
Her campaign back to form kicked off with a second place at the Australasian Multi-sport festival which earned her a slot on Team Kiwi for the annual Tans Tasman Trophy.
22 year-old engineering apprentice Sam Clark has previously raced with both Richard Ussher and Braden Currie in the field of adventure and has, for a young bloke, plenty of experience under his hydrobelt.
“I raced with Richard and Braden as part of the Orion GODZone Adventure Challenge, and more recently against them in Rotorua," says Sam. “Braden got the better of me on that occasion, but I’m looking forward to having a good battle with him at the front of the pack in Augusta."
“I expect Augusta to be a real challenge," says Sam. “The swim/surfski combo is a wee bit unusual for us Kiwis - I'm not exceptional at either, but perhaps the thought of those Great Whites will be enough to get me off the water double quick.
“It’s always a privilege to represent your country, and naturally we Kiwis have an inherent advantage in that we invented multisporting. Oh, and our country's low wages and the exchange rate just makes us hungrier for your prize money dollar!" notes Sam of the extra $1000 purse for winning the Trans Tasman Trophy
Whatever the incentive, Team Kiwi will be watching carefully the results this coming weekend at the Anaconda Adventure Race National Series kick off in Noosa, Queensland, checking out which Aussies place where so they can take measure of their competition in Augusta.
As always, the Trans Tasman rivalry will be fierce making for some fascinating adventure racing up front. The second round of the Anaconda Adventure Race National Series, encompassing the Trans Tasman Trophy, takes place in Augusta, Western Australia, 4 November 2012.
Entries are still open for the long and short courses at all three Anaconda Adventure Race rounds: