Big names down for Whitehorse Big Easy

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The course record for the Whitehorse Big Easy could be under threat when the race gets under way at Waimate’s Victoria Park tomorrow.

A duathlon has been added, which combines the 27km bike and 18km run of the Whitehorse Challenge teams event.

It has attracted some big names in New Zealand multisport, including Waitaki athletes Paul Gow, Daniel Bishop and 2019 Red Bull Defiance winners Hamish Elliott and Sam Bell.

Elliott, a former Waitaki Boys’ High School pupil, will be seeking redemption after being forced to pull out of the Coast to Coast earlier this month, suffering from hypothermia.

Going in to the event as the fourth-seeded athlete, Elliott said he “had a bit of a shocker”.

“I didn’t really look after myself and probably underestimated multisport,” he said.

The field for tomorrow’s race is not large compared with the races Elliott is used to, but he was prepared for some tough competition.

“They are quality athletes and with multisport racing, it is just who has a good day.”

The Whitehorse Challenge teams event will also be fiercely contested, as will the individual bike (27km, 20km, 13km or 5km) and individual walk/run (18km, 12km or 5km) categories.

Event organiser Ryan Luckman said the beauty of the event was the range of competitors, from the likes of Elliott to children as young as 3 years old.

Organising the event got easier each year, thanks to the work of an active committee, Luckman said.

“The conditions underfoot should be good, the track itself is looking good.”

With the introduction of a new trophy, to be awarded to the local school with the most entries, Luckman was expecting an influx of young competitors.

For many of them, it would be their first taste of multisport, he said.

The Big Easy raises money for local charities in two ways – from entries in the various categories and the fundraising efforts in the solo and teams challenge. The challenge competitors shave a second off their time for each dollar they raise over $250.

This year’s charities are Centrecare Counselling Waimate, Sport Waimate, the Waimate School of Music, St John Waimate and the local Rotary and mountain biking clubs.

Money would also go towards track maintenance.

“I think it has been very good for promoting the tracks,” Luckman said.

“You can literally walk or bike from town and be right amongst at least 30km of off-road trails.

“It’s getting a really good name for itself.”

Local business owners had been generous in covering the costs associated with running the event, which meant all the money raised went directly back to community groups and the tracks, Luckman said.

More than half the competitors were Waimate residents, and Luckman said there had been a noticeable increase in the number of people using the Big Easy trails recreationally and for training.

“As well as the money raised, there are some good community outcomes.”