If every cloud has a silver lining, organisers of the Whitehorse Big Easy certainly found theirs on Sunday.

The annual Waimate multisport event was all set to take place on February 28, but organisers were forced to postpone it at the last minute due to the change in Covid-19 alert levels announced on the night of February 27.

It was finally able to get under way on Sunday.

The weather was “perfect”, entry numbers were up, sponsorship was strong and “everything went very smoothly”, Whitehorse Big Easy president Justin Chittock said.

“We’re pretty proud to be able to make the event happen.”

This year’s Whitehorse Big Easy was the fifth to be held. First held in 2017, it had grown a lot over the past four years, Chittock said.

“The original event had about 200 [entries] . . . and now we’re looking at about 500 people, so we’ve more than doubled in size.”

Podium finish . . . The top three teams in the Whitehorse Challenge are (from left) Ryan Luckman and Brendan Lane, Tim Rush and Kaleb Hayes, and David and Jeremy Gardiner. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN

There was also more of a focus on attracting younger athletes, and the children’s 5km mountain bike race had been a hit this year.

“We’ve tried to focus a bit more on bringing the younger ones into the event to get them interested and keep them going as they get older,” he said.

South of Christchurch, there was nothing else like Whitehorse Big Easy – and it was “by no means easy”.

“Because we’ve got the hills and the great network of tracks around community-wise, it’s bringing in a big crowd.”

As always, the Whitehorse Challenge teams event was fiercely contested, organising committee member Ryan Luckman said.

In the lead-up to the event, teams fundraise for their chosen charities through Givealittle pages, and for every dollar raised over $250, a second is shaved off their final time.

More than $10,900 was raised this year.

“So it’s not just the fastest team on the day. Sponsorship comes into play,” Luckman said.

While there was a clear winner – Tim Rush and Kaleb Hayes, of Oamaru – just two minutes separated the teams from second to fourth place, and places changed due to fundraising efforts.

Top effort . . . Tim Rush and Kaleb Hayes won this year’s Whitehorse Challenge. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN

Hayes completed the 18km run in 1hr 22min 23sec and Rush finished the 27km mountain bike in 1hr 12min.

It was their first time competing at a multisport event together. Rush roped Hayes in at the last minute, when his runner pulled out.

“I knew a pretty handy runner and dragged him in,” Rush said.

Everything went smoothly for the pair, except for a “stitch-up” at the transition when there was a miscommunication over tagging, Hayes said.

“I think he blew a valve trying to look for me,” Rush said.

Rush has no plans for multisport events in the coming months, his focus now on his family and 2-month-old son.

Hayes is training for the Southern Lakes half marathon on May 1.