Teams start the rafting stage on the Rangitata River during Saturday's Spring Challenge. Photo: Matt Searles/

Lynley still has a spring in her step


It’s almost 30 years since rower Lynley Coventry won a bronze medal at the Seoul Olympics but the Nelson athlete showed she is still super-fit, winning the veteran’s section of the Torpedo 7 Spring Challenge near Geraldine on Saturday.

Lynley joined her friends Jane Martin and Jane Orbell in team Nancy Loves Bikes to win the veteran’s section of the all-women’s adventure race that attracted 597 teams. The trio rafted 11km down the Rangitata River, trekked 15km up Mt Peel and mountainbiked 70km before completing an orienteering section, to win in 10hr 8min 56sec.

Although Lynley has competed in plenty of Spring Challenges, winning the open section in 2013, she says Saturday’s 11th edition was by far the toughest.

“It was a fantastic race but it was physically demanding,” she says. “There were lots of big climbs – there was one climb after another.

“The trek was steep and then we had a really steep section on the mountainbike. We had to push our bikes up 800 vertical metres – it was so steep it was unrideable.”

Saturday’s win continued a successful year for Lynley who won four gold medals in the rowing at the World Masters Games in Auckland in April. She says training for the rowing gave her a good base fitness for the Spring Challenge although her preparation was almost torpedoed by a knee injury she suffered while skiing six weeks before the event.

“I was pretty fit from the rowing although it’s a different kind of fitness. Rowing is a big, flat out effort for four minutes while adventure racing is a 10-hour slog.

“But then I twisted my knee skiing and had to have a break from training. I hadn’t been skiing for 30 years and knew it was a bad idea, but fortunately it came right just in time.”

It was also a good day for the Martin family with Jane’s daughter Hannah teaming up with Jess Alloway and Charlotte Tucker to win the junior six-hour race in 6hr 45min 39sec.

Nelson’s Susie Wood featured in a sprint finish in the open race with her team of Sophie Hart and Fleur Pawsey just missing out to Jo Williams, Simone Maier and Sia Svendsen by one second. Susie’s team caught the leaders on the mountainbike stage and the two teams were locked together during the 4km orienteering before Jo, Simone and Sia sprinted clear in the finishing chute to win in 8hr 10min 52sec.

Sophie, who is a three-time World Adventure Racing Champion and had her eight-month-old baby Willa watching her cross the finish line, says the course was “one of the hardest” Spring Challenges she has competed in.

“We had a great day. The course was really hard and kept us honest out there.
“The last 50m to the finish line was the most challenging. It was just all on and I didn’t have any gas left in the tank, unfortunately.”

Another Nelson competitor, Georgia Whitla, was third in Team Sneaky Weasel Gals in 8hr 48min 22sec.

Race director Nathan Fa’avae says the quality of the racing was exceptional with “amazing female athletes in the top nine-hour teams”.

“The top two teams had multiple World Adventure Racing Championship-winning girls. While Spring Challenge is for everyone, it’s really inspirational for other women to see a hard-fought race going on at the top end of the field.”

Nathan says the race went smoothly with 160 staff and volunteers ensuring the 1800 competitors were safe.