Red Bull Defiance is an epic, two-day endurance event held in the multisport Mecca of Wanaka, New Zealand.
It combines stages of mountain biking, kayaking, and trail running, along with two special stages, to create a real challenge for athletes of all abilities. Richie McCaw, a former All Black, doesn’t mind a bit of rough and tumble and fronted up for his second crack at Defiance. Part of a four-man team – three men and one woman, actually – he and his crew battled for two days and 150km of tough, Wanaka terrain.
Team Best Foot Forward
In 2017 McCaw finished sixth overall alongside veteran Bob McLachlan in the two-time Rugby World Cup-winning captain’s first multisport event. For 2018, the 38-year-old from Oamaru hit the start line just after the birth of his daughter, Charlotte, and had as his teammates Bob McLachlan (again), Rob Nichol and Sarah Fair maid. The team adopted the name ‘Team Best Foot Forward NZ’, which seemed entirely appropriate, and entered the X4 class. The X4 class meant only two team members were allowed on the track at any one time, while the other two team members were allowed to work support. It also allowed substituting members so competitors can take to the course for their favoured disciplines.
Get The Point
In 2018 the regular sports were in: mountain biking, trail running and kayaking. The ‘special stages’ were very special: abseiling and, believe it or not, knife throwing.
A minor injury on the first day – nothing to do with the flying blades, apparently – meant a performance just slightly below its best, and in the competitive atmosphere of Red Bull Defiance, it was enough to drop Team Best Foot Forward NZ to a gutsy sixth-place finish at the close of the two-day sweat fest. Even an international footy star like Richie McCaw felt the fitness pressure and used the team’s support to help him through.
“Rob dragged me up the hill,” he panted. “Pleased to be here. I’m a little bit less wobbly than I was this time last year, so I’m happy about that.”
The scenery is a huge part of any event in New Zealand, and Defiance was no different. The breath taking, panoramic views from mountaintops across lakes and ridges were astonishing. The bike stage was especially glorious, with the route climbing to the top of the epic Pisa Range via Criffel Station before traversing the legendary Wanaka Skyline Track for the run – which incorporated the double-summit challenge of Mount Alpha and Roys Peak –looking over Lake Wanaka.
Over 250 athletes took on the six Wanaka stages covering both the Elite and Sport sections. The top step of the podium in the X4 category went to Team Crossing Peaks, while young guns Hamish Elliot and Sam Bell hit hard to take the men’s win in 12 hours and 18 minutes.
“It’s really rewarding and great to be out on the track,” gasped Elliot, and Bell added, “Being in Wanaka, you can’t beat the scenery.”
Kym Skerman and Nic Leary continued their women’s dominance to win in 14 hours and 45 minutes, with husband-and-wife duo Margie and Richard Campbell securing the mixed title in 14 hours and 26 minutes.