Sky clearing for 25th Motu Challenge

Gisborne endurance athletes have been looking at the sky as they get ready to face the roads, bush and river tomorrow in the 25th Motu Challenge multisport race . . . in an ever-changing weather picture.

For a quarter-century, Opotiki has hosted this great race in all conditions, over a scenic but challenging triangle that starts and finishes in the town, by way of gravel, trails and rapids of Motu Road, Motu, Matawai and the Waioeka Gorge.

Many Gisborne individuals and teams have been on the podium in the 172-kilometre main race, and the more recently established cycle race and duathlon within it.

But representation from this side of the gorge is down to a dozen this year — a far cry from 45-plus in the race’s heyday.

Stephen Sheldrake has a history of success in the bike race and will be among the front-runners again in the Motu 160, the mountain bike/road bike combo from Opotiki to Opotiki.

Second last year, he has been veteran and open champion of this tough ride several times, holds the race record and won outright by a huge eight-minute margin the first time he led to Opotiki.

Many Gisborne cyclists have tackled the 160km route but at the time of writing, the entry list was down to just Sheldrake and Callum Gordon.

A Gisborne quinella would be a reasonable punt at the TAB again this year.

Leaders cover the 65km Motu Road and 95km highway legs in under five hours.

Cyclist Rose Candy is teamed this year with distance runner Samantha Jennings in the long-course duathlon. The “Gizzy Gals” are quite capable of giving outright team honours a good nudge.

Among individuals in the full Challenge field, interest lies with former Gisborne athlete Shaun Pahina and former Wairoa high-flyer Sam Manson, whose pedigree in the C2C and other big races makes him a podium pick.

Tackling the race as a mixed pair are Shane Clapperton and Amy Spence. Neither is a stranger to the Challenge.

Clapperton tackled it alone back in the day and Spence has team experience of this race and the Coast to Coast. As a side note, they will be up against former Gisborne couple Jeremy and Clare Webber in the mixed pairs.

A late injury has forced Gizzy Golden Oldies to race as an open four, though there was no need for Hans van Kregten, Ian Hughes and Dave Conway to change the team name, even with younger ring-in kayaker Nick Gordon aboard.

If there is an oldest team prize, they are still a shoe-in.

Just how the weather will influence road and river conditions will be revealed on Saturday. It is a reasonable bet the Waioeka will gain more depth overnight and weather predictions have been swinging from fine to rain to a clearing sky for race day.

■ Next up for multisport athletes is another milestone race, the 30th running of the 100km Coast Duathlon, in three weeks on November 3.

Gisborne endurance athletes have been looking at the sky as they get ready to face the roads, bush and river tomorrow in the 25th Motu Challenge multisport race . . . in an ever-changing weather picture.

For a quarter-century, Opotiki has hosted this great race in all conditions, over a scenic but challenging triangle that starts and finishes in the town, by way of gravel, trails and rapids of Motu Road, Motu, Matawai and the Waioeka Gorge.

Many Gisborne individuals and teams have been on the podium in the 172-kilometre main race, and the more recently established cycle race and duathlon within it.

But representation from this side of the gorge is down to a dozen this year — a far cry from 45-plus in the race’s heyday.

Stephen Sheldrake has a history of success in the bike race and will be among the front-runners again in the Motu 160, the mountain bike/road bike combo from Opotiki to Opotiki.

Second last year, he has been veteran and open champion of this tough ride several times, holds the race record and won outright by a huge eight-minute margin the first time he led to Opotiki.

Many Gisborne cyclists have tackled the 160km route but at the time of writing, the entry list was down to just Sheldrake and Callum Gordon.

A Gisborne quinella would be a reasonable punt at the TAB again this year.

Leaders cover the 65km Motu Road and 95km highway legs in under five hours.

Cyclist Rose Candy is teamed this year with distance runner Samantha Jennings in the long-course duathlon. The “Gizzy Gals” are quite capable of giving outright team honours a good nudge.

Among individuals in the full Challenge field, interest lies with former Gisborne athlete Shaun Pahina and former Wairoa high-flyer Sam Manson, whose pedigree in the C2C and other big races makes him a podium pick.

Tackling the race as a mixed pair are Shane Clapperton and Amy Spence. Neither is a stranger to the Challenge.

Clapperton tackled it alone back in the day and Spence has team experience of this race and the Coast to Coast. As a side note, they will be up against former Gisborne couple Jeremy and Clare Webber in the mixed pairs.

A late injury has forced Gizzy Golden Oldies to race as an open four, though there was no need for Hans van Kregten, Ian Hughes and Dave Conway to change the team name, even with younger ring-in kayaker Nick Gordon aboard.

If there is an oldest team prize, they are still a shoe-in.

Just how the weather will influence road and river conditions will be revealed on Saturday. It is a reasonable bet the Waioeka will gain more depth overnight and weather predictions have been swinging from fine to rain to a clearing sky for race day.

■ Next up for multisport athletes is another milestone race, the 30th running of the 100km Coast Duathlon, in three weeks on November 3.

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