Milestone edition of 100km Coast Duathlon

THEY'RE OFF: Race director Mark Sceats gets competitors off and running in the 29th Coast Duathlon. The 30th will be held tomorrow. Picture by Liam Clayton

The weather will clear, the road will be dry, the wind will oblige and the pub will be open at the finish line . . . a perfect picture for the 30th edition of Gisborne’s iconic road race.

Some of that prediction will be true as the 100-kilometre Coast Duathlon sets off from Gladstone Road tomorrow morning with its 3000th kilometre just up the road at Te Puia.

This is a milestone race three decades in the making. Tomorrow’s modest field will carry the spirit of hundreds of athletes who have lined up at the AMP corner since 1989, sharing the 14km run to Tatapouri, 40km cycle to Tolaga Bay, 36km cycle to Tokomaru Bay and 10km run to Te Puia — or going it on their own.

Eastland Biathlon back then, Coast Duathlon today . . . different name, same journey.

Who will add their names to the race honours board tomorrow? At the time of writing, not all entries were in and some were weather-watching, but a compact crew is expected to pay homage to the race on its 30th birthday.

Kim Hedley and Samantha Jennings will be hard to beat for the mixed teams title, Flying Dutchmen Murray van Dorp and Hans van Kregten will defend their veteran title, super vet Keith Scholes, a former race champion, will make another solo cameo appearance against Dougal Watts and Rod Skelton, Russell Smyth will be another blast from the past teamed with Rocky . . . and there will be other faces from all the way back to ’89.

Thirty years ago, a race of this length seemed a little crazy. The first one was unknown territory but the tri club and race director Terry Sheldrake enjoyed immediate success.

Four years later there were 90-plus in the individual race, with fields of several hundred on the road.

It was the 1998 and ’99 New Zealand long-course duathlon championship race during its 12-year run. Sponsors stepped back in 2001 and the race appeared to be lost until new race director Mark Sceats and a small crew of helpers resurrected it under a new name and simple club-style format.

Heat, hills and wind have tried to break spirits . . . and sometimes won. But the challenge of the Coast’s long straights, gutbuster hills and uncertain winds has been offset by the grandeur of the course, its coastal views and sweeping descents.

Early race records still stand: 3 hours 28 minutes by three-time champion Tony Olsen in 1996 and 3:12 by the fastest team in 1991 — Ron Robertson, Steve Wilson and Bob Carter.

It was won in its day by some of the nation’s fastest athletes but in later years Gisborne athletes took the honours. Five of the outright winners have been veterans and six years ago the race was 30 seconds short of line honours by the first woman.

Echoes of three decades and faces from those races past will be with us on State Highway 35 tomorrow.

And don’t be surprised if a few blue shirts are worn.

The weather will clear, the road will be dry, the wind will oblige and the pub will be open at the finish line . . . a perfect picture for the 30th edition of Gisborne’s iconic road race.

Some of that prediction will be true as the 100-kilometre Coast Duathlon sets off from Gladstone Road tomorrow morning with its 3000th kilometre just up the road at Te Puia.

This is a milestone race three decades in the making. Tomorrow’s modest field will carry the spirit of hundreds of athletes who have lined up at the AMP corner since 1989, sharing the 14km run to Tatapouri, 40km cycle to Tolaga Bay, 36km cycle to Tokomaru Bay and 10km run to Te Puia — or going it on their own.

Eastland Biathlon back then, Coast Duathlon today . . . different name, same journey.

Who will add their names to the race honours board tomorrow? At the time of writing, not all entries were in and some were weather-watching, but a compact crew is expected to pay homage to the race on its 30th birthday.

Kim Hedley and Samantha Jennings will be hard to beat for the mixed teams title, Flying Dutchmen Murray van Dorp and Hans van Kregten will defend their veteran title, super vet Keith Scholes, a former race champion, will make another solo cameo appearance against Dougal Watts and Rod Skelton, Russell Smyth will be another blast from the past teamed with Rocky . . . and there will be other faces from all the way back to ’89.

Thirty years ago, a race of this length seemed a little crazy. The first one was unknown territory but the tri club and race director Terry Sheldrake enjoyed immediate success.

Four years later there were 90-plus in the individual race, with fields of several hundred on the road.

It was the 1998 and ’99 New Zealand long-course duathlon championship race during its 12-year run. Sponsors stepped back in 2001 and the race appeared to be lost until new race director Mark Sceats and a small crew of helpers resurrected it under a new name and simple club-style format.

Heat, hills and wind have tried to break spirits . . . and sometimes won. But the challenge of the Coast’s long straights, gutbuster hills and uncertain winds has been offset by the grandeur of the course, its coastal views and sweeping descents.

Early race records still stand: 3 hours 28 minutes by three-time champion Tony Olsen in 1996 and 3:12 by the fastest team in 1991 — Ron Robertson, Steve Wilson and Bob Carter.

It was won in its day by some of the nation’s fastest athletes but in later years Gisborne athletes took the honours. Five of the outright winners have been veterans and six years ago the race was 30 seconds short of line honours by the first woman.

Echoes of three decades and faces from those races past will be with us on State Highway 35 tomorrow.

And don’t be surprised if a few blue shirts are worn.

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