Team grit teeth for gutbuster

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Two Queenstown training buddies will make a formidable team at this weekend’s gruelling but scenic Red Bull Defiance.

Alex Martin, 41, and Kat Bulk, 32, are competing for the first time in the two-day, 154km adventure race around Wanaka.

It’s being held over six stages featuring mountain biking, running and kayaking, with abseiling and clay target shooting challenges thrown in for good measure.

While both women have bonded over many training missions, they also offer complementary skills.

Martin’s a top kayaker – in Bulk’s words, “she’s got this unbelievable ability to go into ‘beast’ mode and keep going until she faints”.

Bulk, for her part, is a strong cyclist and hill runner.

Like many teams, when one member’s stronger, they may resort to pulling the other one through with a cord.

Bulk, who’s competed in Coast to Coast’s The Longest Day four times with a best placing of seventh, says she’s not contested Red Bull Defiance before as it’s normally only a week or two beforehand. This time, however, there’s a three-week gap.

Martin’s competed in the past two Coast to Coast two-day events, finishing fourth-fastest woman the first year then sixth-fastest woman, and fastest veteran, last year.

She’s graduating to The Longest Day on February 9.

Bulk: “I guess Coast to Coast is our ‘A’ race, that’s the one we’ve been building up for.

“We’d like to give [Defiance] a reasonable nudge but we need to be sensible so we’re not completely wrecking ourselves. I think we can still perform really well but not hurt ourselves too much for the big race.”

The pair are competing as Team Barracuda, thanks to a kayaking sponsor of the same name.

Also tipped to do well is Queenstown’s Katie O’Neill, 29, – a one-time New Zealand under-23 mountain biking rep with an U23 World Cup top-10 finish. She joins Wanaka’s Sarah Cull in Team Liv Cycling.

“We’re actually just trying to get through it, ‘cos we aren’t in full fitness form as we used to be,” says O’Neill, whose top-end career finished after back surgery in 2012.

Cull raced the Minaret Burn mountain bike leg at last year’s Defiance, “so she’s the local knowledge”, O’Neill adds.

In the men’s division, Queenstown triathletes Adam Wilson and Paul Preston, of Team Salming NZ, should again feature strongly, while local nine-time Coast to Coast winner Steve Gurney’s also competing in a four.

scoop@scene.co.nz