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Friday, 7 March 2014

Anatomy of a race - early candidate for course of the year?

Is this the best sprint course and map in New Zealand since at least the World Cups?  Given the wonderful course on Ferrymead at the Nationals and the stunning Queenstown Botanic Gardens maps it's a tough competition.

I think it deserves a breakdown to look at some of the more interesting legs involved.  As Jamie Stewart pointed out the first six in the top left are fantastic.
The genius of the first 6 is the high technical map reading required in order to determine the optimum route choice.  There are some dead ends and opportunities well hidden and Ross has made the most of a small area.  Just getting to number one there are a few options.  Going left, right or through the guts.  I'd probably go for the gap in the fence the staircase by 3 and come round the southern side of the building. 1 to 2 is not so easy given the uncrossable wall.  I'd be inclined to run the eastern side to give myself map reading time.  The next 4 require fine map reading to stay on top and without smooth technique it is possible to lose significant time.

We can see from the splits for this section that only Matt came close to nailing it.  I think though it's important to note the need for smoothness through the controls as is evident by Matt's running.  But as is evident by the gaps in the finish time - this part of the race wasn't the place where it was won or lost.

We now move onto the first route choice leg:  6 to 7.  Straight off the bat there's a choice of either left or right.  Left is more direct and steeper but with a technical exit from 6 to the road.  Right is open but longer.  Chance to read ahead?  Once at halfway there's another split.  Left will take you to either the gap in the fence to try to cut through by 9 or to run wide down the road past 10.  There appears to be an easier entry into the control by taking the latter.  Going right at halfway takes you on a long road run - although you need to be aware at the control to look for the tunnel under the road.

I'm not sure of the best route choice here but Chris and Shamus lose a good minute here and fall out of contention.  I'm guessing it is a case of pick a route and good hard.  Personally, although less enjoyable, I'd probably go right both times.  Matt meanwhile has lost 12 seconds to Tim on the long leg and is about to lose a further 21 seconds on 9 to 10.  Nick Hann is staying consistent and still in the hunt at this point.  The key to Tim's race is he now has the smoothness that Matt had at the start of the race.

 Below is the lovely little technical section at Napier Girls' High School.  I particularly like 7 to 8.
I want to focus on two last legs, 17 to 18 where Nick Hann makes his mistake and, after almost getting back into the race, falls out of contention. And secondly, 20 to 21 here Tim asserts himself on the race and recovers his small lead at a point in the race where Matt was chipping away at Tim's lead.

17 to 18 looks benign enough but it does have an interesting flavour.  It's a great little left or right route choice just after some fast running and just at the turn to home point in the course.  The return home can be point where your mind slips slightly.  It thinks ahead and loses concentration on the now.
The last little segment is a doozy with the now famous waterfall scene at 22.  Tim still has a 14 second lead at 20 but pushes it into number 21 gaining a valuable 5 seconds on Matt for safety over the last few technical controls.  To me this is what is so exciting about Tim as a sprinter.  He grasps the importance of certain legs and pushes through above what his competitors are achieving.

So finally, looking at the race as a whole, winsplits gives us a lovely little graph to show us where time is lost compared to the leader.  I think it shows the need to focus on a good clean run and the ability to just step it up a notch now and then.  As Nathan Fa'avae says, in adventure racing, when he's hurting he knows his competition will be hurting too if not more, he uses this to go harder to widen the gap on his opposition.

So well done to Ross on this one.  Excellent work.  I particularly love how the course was set to challenge a full range of skills for competitors and created some fantastic route choices.

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