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Thorne, Leary Win Xterra New Zealand

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Kiwis Scott Thorne and Nicola Leary won the men’s and women’s pro races at the eighth annual Xterra New Zealand Championship in Rotorua on Saturday.  It’s the second-year in a row that Leary, a mountain bike specialist from Raetihi, has taken the women’s title.

Men’s Race

On the men’s side 27-year-old Scott Thorne, a new father and full-time builder, overcame sleepless nights and the flu to win his first Xterra championship under perfect conditions in Rotorua.

Defending champ and race favorite Richard Ussher of Nelson was a late withdrawal due to a nagging shoulder injury.

“I’m truly gutted, but an injury that I’d hoped I would be over long before now just hasn’t healed at all and so I wouldn’t be able to even complete the swim, let alone be competitive in it,” Ussher told the Nelson Mail. “I hurt my shoulder after the race in Abu Dhabi which has made me unable to recover the arm over the top in the recovery of the stroke. I’m going for some scans this week to see if it is going to require surgery. I will definitely hope to be back next year.”

For Thorne, who has finished in the top 17 at the Xterra World Championship three times including a 13th place performance last year, the win in his home country finishes an upward trend of performances.

“I’m really stoked to be able to complete my set of medals” Thorne explains. “I got third in 2008 and second last year so to come here and take the win is just awesome. Things felt right from the get-go really – I was very pleased with my swim and then as soon as I hit the bike everything just clicked.”

With a 10-week old baby and catching a cold just a couple of weeks ago, it hasn’t been the easiest of build ups for the Hamiltonian. “The last couple of weeks haven’t been too easy but my wife Emma has been an awesome support and we just make it happen.”

Less than a minute back was Rotorua local, Mark Leishman, the 31-year-old praising the efforts of his younger competitor.

“Scott had a great race today – very solid – he is going to go on and be a very successful athlete I’m sure.”

Talented teenager and Port of Tauranga Half Ironman Champion, Michael Poole ran himself into a very commendable third place. Having led by over 2 minutes after the 1km swim, the 18-year-old road tri specialist found it tough going on the 29km mountain bike – dropping back to fourth place before running his way to the podium.

Previous XTERRA Champion and Olympic gold medalist, Hamish Carter, completed the mountain bike as part of the team’s event.

Women’s Race

In the women’s race Leishman’s partner, Nicola Leary, went one better for the household, coming from behind to defended her 2009 title.

“When I got to the bike racks mine was the only bike left on the rack – at that stage I knew I had a lot of work to do.”

And work she did, taking the lead on her favored mountain bike discipline.

“I have been focusing solely on mountain biking really so as soon as I got to the single track I just let rip, I knew I had to get a good lead for the run so I just nailed it.”

Leary leaves for Europe next week where she chases the Mountain Biking World Cup circuit, aiming to qualify for the NZ Olympic Mountain Biking team.

Monique Avery, the reigning and two-time 20-24 XTERRA World Champion, Monique rode very strongly to come off the bike with Leary and went on to finish in second place overall and will be heading back to the World XTERRA Champs in Maui in October to defend her title.

Rebecca Rae took third place in the women’s race, followed by Suzie Wood and Elizabeth Orchard.  Also of note was 25-29 XTERRA World Champ Bridget Keegan who placed sixth overall and 2001 XTERRA World Champ Anke (Erlank) Moore who finished in 11th.

Over 2,200 participants attended the XTERRA Rotorua event in perfect conditions at The Blue Lake. This event is considered the world’s largest single day of XTERRA off-road festivities – competitors choose from walking, running, mountain biking or as an individual or team member in the XTERRA off-road triathlon event.

1. Scott Thorne 2:13:31
2. Mark Leishman 2:14:30
3. Michael Poole 2:18:05
4. Axel Reiser 2:20:47
5. Cameron Durno 2:22:18

1. Nic Leary 2:34:44
2. Monique Avery 2:36:26
3. Rebecca Rae 2:39:09
4. Suzie Wood 2:39:27
5. Elizabeth Orchard 2:44:12

Race recap provided by XTERRA.