Gurney’s peaking for local gutbuster

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A three-time winner of Queenstown’s Peak to Peak – Coast to Coast legend Steve Gurney – returns for its 20th anniversary.

Gurney, 50, who recently shifted to Queenstown after losing his home in the Christchurch earthquake, says he’ll be a social competitor this Saturday.

“I haven’t done it for probably 10 years, I’m not going to be able to win it. I’m certainly not fit at the moment, I’ve been out kayaking and biking but I don’t run any more – I’ve got a crook ankle so I’ll just be hobbling.”

Gurney, who won a record nine Coast to Coasts, is looking forward to watching young bucks like defending champion Adam Milne, Dougal Allan and Braden Currie duke it out.

Known for revolutionary racing techniques, he also has tips for Peak to Peak greenhorns. To avoid lengthy shoe changes at transitions he’d ski down The Remarkables – the first race leg – in over-sized rear-end ski boots so he could wear running shoes inside.

“After the skiing you just released the latch – there you were standing in your running shoes ready to rock on to your bike.”

Gurney also had a novel way of tackling Homeward Bound: “I’m not a gun skier so I thought, ‘I just want to bomb the bloody thing straight down so I don’t have to turn’.

“But of course you get up too much speed so I made this parachute, more like a drogue, then threw it out the back to slow me down.”

Gurney compliments organiser Geoff Hunt: “Peak to Peak’s been around for 20 years – there’s not many events have done this, most have died long ago. It’s testimony to what a good design it is and its cool atmosphere.

“It’s actually really achievable as a team, it’s quite centralised and it goes through the centre of the city – people like to be watched and cheered.”

Despite his talk of treating the event socially, Gurney confesses: “There’s something about testicles – you might say all these social things but once the gun goes, what’s between your legs turns your brain into competitive mode.”

All you need to know

When: Noon, Saturday

Where: The Remarkables to Coronet Peak

Distance: 44km

Race record: Hadyn Key, 2hr 1min 35sec (2001)

More info: www.southerntraverse.com