Aaron Farlow and Gina Crawford win Challenge Wanaka. Honours Even for Australia and New Zealand

Australia’s Aaron Farlow came through a strong field to win the sixth edition of the long-course Challenge Wanaka triathlon on Saturday.

Farlow broke the tape in 8:41:53, 10 minutes ahead of defending champion Jamie Whyte of Auckland with Aucklander Kieran Doe another six minutes behind in third.

WANAKA, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 21:  Aaron Farlow of Australia celebrates winning Challenge Wanaka on January 21, 2012 in Wanaka, New Zealand.  (Photo by Hannah Johnston/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Aaron Farlow
Aaron Farlow winning 2012 Challenge Wanaka

Farlow, a rising Canberra-based professional, took his first Ironman win last year in the UK and showed his class with a steady performance that brought him from three minutes behind in the swim to an emphatic win. He was clearly spent at the finish.

While disappointed he couldn’t defend his title, Whyte said he was pleased with a day that saw him racing solo much of the race and unable to pick up the pace on the run as he’d hoped.

“I was trying to extract more pace from myself; I just couldn’t get any more running speed. I knew I was losing time but I just wasn’t able to get anything going on the run,” he said. “I was cleanly beaten today by the better athlete.”

Whyte vowed to return next year, and took time at the finish to thank the crowd that thronged Wanaka’s lakeside Ardmore St. “Thanks to the people of Wanaka for making me feel like I’m on my home ground,” he said.

First out of the water were quick swimmers Doe and veteran professional Bryan Rhodes, who covered the 3.8km in Lake Wanaka in just under 48min, putting both under the swim course record of 49.97. Nearly 3min in arrears came Farlow, trailed by Whyte, Courtney Ogden (AUS), Jimmy Johnsen (DEN), Keegan Williams (NZL) and Petr Vaboursek (Czech Republic).

Once onto the bike Doe and Rhodes drove the pace in the early going with Farlow, Whyte, Ogden and Johnsen rounding out the front-runners. Farlow bridged the gap to the pair, joining Doe at the 70km mark as Rhodes had dropped back with mechanical woes. Bedeviled by two flat tyres, Rhodes saw his race end about 150km into the cycle. Farlow then made what turned out to be the decisive move with 30km left to ride, overhauling Doe and coming into the second transition area with more than two minutes in hand as the gaps widened behind them. Farlow ticked off the first 21km of the marathon in 1:28:27 and had 6min on Whyte, with Doe another three minutes in arrears. Behind them Ogden and Johnsen were firing and would come through to the finish in fourth and fifth.


The women’s race was dominated wire to wire by three-time Challenge Wanaka champion Gina Crawford of Christchurch, newly returned to full-time racing after giving birth to her first child six months ago. The 30-year-old Crawford exited the water in 54:21 and was never headed, reaching the finish in 9:44:06 after holding off a hard-charging Britta Martin on the run to take her fourth Wanaka title.

WANAKA, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 21:  Britta Martin of Germany celebrates finishing second in the Challenge Wanaka on January 21, 2012 in Wanaka, New Zealand.  (Photo by Hannah Johnston/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Britta Martin
Gina Crawford winning Challenge Wanaka 2012

“It’s just great to push yourself to the line and see how far you can go,” Crawford said. “It’s great to be back, I’ve missed racing.”

After a strong bike, Crawford arrived in the transition area well clear of fellow Kiwi Julia Grant and Germany’s Britta Martin, a rising triathlon pro now based in Nelson. Crawford stormed onto the run course and burnt through the first 3km in 11 minutes on the way to a determined and speedy marathon. Behind her, Martin (winner of last year’s Challenge Wanaka half-distance race) was having a strong run and gaining ground but could overhaul her. At the finish Crawford had two and a half minutes on Martin and another 10 minutes on third place.

The sixth-year race saw 1,300 athletes from 30 nations competing in the half-distance and full-distance triathlons. The race covers a 3.8km swim in Lake Wanaka, a 180km bike ride past the lake and through spectacular Southern Lakes and Central Otago scenery before wrapping up with a two-lap 42.2km marathon run along the Clutha River and lake’s edge. For more information, please visit www.challenge-wanaka.com.

Challenge Wanaka
21 January 2012/Wanaka, NZ
(3.8km swim/180km cycle/42.2km run)

1) Aaron Farlow (AUS) (50:43/4:44:51/3:02:41) 8:41:53
2) Jamie Whyte (NZL) (51:31/4:47:45/3:08:55) 8:51:53
3) Kieran Doe (NZL) (47:44/4:50:23/3:15:42) 8:57:17
4) Courtney Ogden (AUS) (51:38/5:04:45/3:07:37) 9:08:42
5) Jimmy Johnsen (DEN) (52:50/5:07:09/3:04:59) 9:09:05

1) Gina Crawford (NZL) 9:44:06
2) Britta Martin (GER)  9:47:39
3) Simone Maier (GER) 9:57:42
4) Candice Hammond (NZL) 9:58:39
5) Julia Grant (NZL) 10:01:49

Karl Hayes

Head of Rest and Recovery

Karl is a keen age group triathlete who races more than he trains. Good life balance! Karl works in the media industry in Australia and is passionate about the sport of triathlon.