There is something special about beating the Aussies.
So it proved for Tim Rush who, alongside Christchurch-based cyclist Michael Vink, defended his title at the Pioneer mountain bike race in Central Otago last week.
The Onya Bike North Otago riders overcame the strong challenge of Australians Brendan Johnston and Jon Odams – eventually winning by just under 15min.
The lead had changed hands earlier in the week, but Rush and Vink pulled ahead in the third stage and did not hand it up over the final two days which involved long uphill slogs on gravel roads.
“What suited us was more of the road stuff, whereas when it got into the single track, the Aussie boys were pretty strong,” Rush said.
“You know what Aussie’s like, it’s pretty flat – what they call a mountain is like a wee hill to us.
“They were supposed to smoke us so it was good to show up and actually give them a run and shut a few people up.”
Members of the two-person teams had to stay within two minutes of each other over the entire event.
It was the second year Rush and Vink had competed together, but they have known each other for much longer.
“We get on really well. It’s pretty good; we don’t fall out,” Rush said.
They avoided the storms that wreaked havoc over other parts of the South Island, but the route had to be adjusted to avoid heavy snow that was still present on some of the mountains.
“It was definitely harder than last year’s [race], just with better competition and the weather,” he said.
“[Johnston and Odams] gave us a good run. It looked like there were more overseas riders than last year. I think they are trying to promote the event more.”
The next major event for Rush and Vink is the Cape Epic, a 700km race around South Africa’s Western Cape.
It claims to be the most televised mountain bike race in the world.
Rush will compete in the South Island cross-country championships in the build-up to that, but was looking forward to relaxing before Christmas.