What an exhilarating week in Wanaka! The weather made for near perfect racing conditions for the thousands of competitors across several age groups. More than just a race, Challenge Wanaka prides itself on creating a festival like atmosphere and a family friendly environment where everyone can get involved in multisport on some level, and this year was no exception. We were proud to provide our Aloe Up Sport SPF30 sunscreen at all aid stations throughout the entire event to help protect all athletes, officials, volunteers and spectators from the harsh Central Otago sun.
Things kicked off on Thursday with a brand new event: The Adaptive Challenge. Open to anyone under 23 with an impairment, The Adaptive Challenge allowed those who often feel excluded from sporting events to get involved, test their limits and earn a sense of achievement. After one last quick sprint down to the finish line, these athletes were presented with their medals by Challenge Wanaka and our Aloe Up ambassador Laura Siddall.
Laura unfortunately broke her collar bone a couple of weeks before Challenge Wanaka and couldn’t compete but she still made the trip to Wanaka to help dish out good vibes. Thursday also included the local intermediate and high school age group, the chance to swim the course, a ‘meet the pros’ Q&A and an official event opening party!
Friday morning gave us the chance to see New Zealand’s next generation of triathletes dip their toes into the world of multisport, with the Puzzling World Junior Challenge. These kids had a blast, ripping around the course with smiles a mile wide. With an emphasis on fun and just giving it a go, while surrounded by so many top pro’s to look up to, the Junior Challenge is easily the best stepping stone for kids to get into triathlon.
Friday afternoon was a relaxed affair with the Health & Lifestyle Expo in full swing (we were stoked to have so many of you guy’s pop past our Aloe Up stall and say hello!), plus a couple of very informative Q+A talks about training, coaching, fitness and sports nutrition. It was nice to see our Aloe Up Ambassador Dan Abel taking part in these talks and sharing his open water swimming knowledge with the wider multisport community.
Day three was the biggest day of the event with the pro’s starting the Challenge Asia Pacific Championships at 6.45am. We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to experience the sunrise then the start of the race onboard the Dual Image Launch with other sponsors and what a glorious morning it was.
Our Aloe Up Ambassador Dylan McNeice making it out of the water in first place in the Men's race (and breaking the record for fastest swim too!) Dylan led the bike leg for the first 10km before Braden Currie & Mike Phillips punched it and took control of the race. Once on the run, defending champion Braden Currie showed his experience and pedigree, pulling ahead of the other title contenders and making it two Challenge Wanaka titles in a row! Matt Burton and Mike Phillips rounded out the podium while Dylan finished in a very commendable fifth place.
The Women’s Pro event was a battle with the lead swapping several times between quite a few athletes. By the end of the bike leg a pack of four had separated themselves from the rest of the field with last year’s champ Hannah Wells first out of the second transition. As the women progressed deeper into the run leg, one by one the leading pack started to fall back until there was only two left in the title hunt, defending champ Hannah Wells and Czech Olympian Radka Kahlefeldt. As Hannah was settling into her pace, Radka decided to surge. Radka never looked back and went on to take the win by a good couple of minutes, with Hannah Wells and Meredith Kessler finishing in second and third.
Saturday also saw all of the adult age group races, team and corporate events plus the very popular Aquabike (turns out lots of people enjoy swimming and cycling but aren’t so keen on running!). These events are what Challenge Wanaka is all about, with a number of first-timers just giving it a go for the pure enjoyment of it. While others are trying to beat personal bests or out to prove that their old bones can still make it to the finish line. And there’s nothing quite like working together with your friends in the teams races, easily the most socially satisfying of all the Challenge Wanaka events.
Sunday was the last day of Challenge Wanaka and while most were having a well-earned sleep in from the previous day, at 7.00am New Zealand’s top Secondary School athletes were competing for their national title. No doubt some of the kids competing here this year will be back at future Challenge Wanaka events in the pro race.
And finally to finish Challenge Wanaka off for 2020 we had the volunteer party. It’s a long four days with thousands of people involved and if it were not for the hundreds of volunteers who give up their own time to help out, this event just wouldn’t happen so it’s nice to see Challenge Wanaka put on a bit of a shin dig for them.
As always it’s taken the best part of this week to recover from such a long, fun filled event but Challenge Wanaka 2021 has already been added to our calendar!