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Red Bull Defiance 2017

Red Bull Defiance 2017

by Joanna Williams 


Experiences of Team Outside Sports


I was excited to have the opportunity to race Red bull Defiance again with Sia Svensen.  We raced together last year and previously tandem on the C2C.  It is always a fun couple of days. <

"To race locally is also a real privilege."  An opportunity to venture into areas which are otherwise hard to access!" 

As the event approached and with talk of a highly competitive field, it does make you nervous, but you just have to trust that you and your team mate have done enough to get through and you can only do your best.  So after a bike check with Outside Sports and a body Attack at body works with Kevin, there wasn’t much else I could do, apart from get race gear ready.

Sia arrived on Thursday, which was great, it gave her an opportunity to have a practice at clay bird shooting and have a bit of a rest day before the gruelling event started. Gear checks, and registration, hanging out with all these extremely fit looking athletes, can make sleep hard to get.


Off on the bus and to the barge to Minaret Station.  It was a cold overcast day, but not windy which was promising for the kayak later in the day. Great to catch up with everyone on the barge crossing, enjoying the unusual start to a race.  Then to the start line and we were off… it was all a little crazy, so many people charging on bikes, hard to keep track of team mates. It is the most stunning ride, which I always enjoy, despite the pain of getting up some of those hills, but we made it.  Then onto the run up rocky hill alternative route, it is great to find so many different ways up a hill, it was hands and feet at some points, but we made it to a point where the volunteers pointed us in the direction of the abseil, and that meant down. So it was with relief and a little inkling of cramp that we descended.  It was great to catch up with Floortje and Hamish at this point waiting for the abseil, as we had spent some time training together over the last few months.  A quick zip down and a run across some farmland to the West Wanaka bridge onto the Matukituki river and out to the lake.  The change in activity did set of a little cramp at this point for me especially if some steering was required.  But it did improve after a while. We had a few mixed teams ahead on this paddle so it gave something to chase. Although, all teams ahead were close to over shooting the buoy turn around in Glendhu, I guess when you could see Wanaka it was hard to turn off to the right! It seemed a long slow paddle, Ruby Island taking a long time to get to and then Wanaka township itself took a while... running out of steam a little towards the end…next time more liquid food for me! It was great to find we were the first female elite team over the line day1. We just hoped for as much of a buffer as possible for day2! It was 15 minutes between us and second and 20 or so between us and third.  So not much time to spare!  A clean up of gear and a look at the weather revealed southerly gales on tops with snow for the next 24 hours or so to 1400m.  Knowing Mnt Alpha was at least 1640m, I was packing my red bull duffle bag with all sorts of warm gear.  Wondered what shoes to wear in the snow!  E-mails later that evening from Sally confirmed we were in for a cold day on the tops, but that a risk of change of run coarse was a possibility.


Day 2

We woke to snow across the hills and constant rain on the roof. At 5am we were up and about to get down to start line, check kayak and see if there was any quicker way of getting into kayak with Spray skirt ….We tried sliding in, seemed to work, starter hooter went off and Sia and I slide into our kayaks only to find I couldn’t steer, the kayak only wanted to go right! Meanwhile everyone was charging away from us, I straightened for a minute only to turn right again. So off with the spray skirt and move my pack which had jammed against the steering peddles causing it to malfunction. Then we were off trying to catch everyone, knowing we had lost valuable minutes and what’s worse, less potential for getting any drafting help.  We paddled hard and somehow made up a little time, to come in ahead of the other girls and to crawl up the hill to the clay bird shooting.  Sia went first having practiced on the Friday, and then I had a go and managed to hit a clay first shot…was delighted with myself!  I think seeing where the clay was coming from with Sia going first really helped.


Then onto the bikes. It was incredibly wet and muddy from the start and the transition a little frantic….how many clothes to put on!!?  On up the Criffle hill with Floortje and Hamish and Simon and Misha, always fun to be around your friends, although I was told off for chatting at one point!  It seemed like a lot of climbing, but ok, then it benched out only to climb again into the southerly storm, so it was bitterly cold and even biking uphill didn’t warm you up. On with a jacket for me and then further along again Sia needed more clothes as well, so even more layers- leggings and waterproof pants, no point in getting hyperthermia!  A real risk I would have to say.  We helped each other helmet buckles etc as cold hands meant they weren’t working as they should. We had quite a few teams including Collet girls team catch up us at this point. But it was worth the change, I think it was important to keep some warmth, especially with a technical descent ahead.  It was muddy and slippy, and then there was the tall grass with big rocks to cause havoc.  So we took it carefully and made it down in one piece although Sia did have a wee head plant of the edge of the track, but soldiered on. The Cardrona River was in good flow so crossing with bikes for us was tricky, but other boys sports team came to our rescue and helped carry Sia’s bike and help her across.  I was very grateful for this.  We charged through to transition, which was slow I would say due to cold fingers and hands. It was so good to have so much support from the locals at the transitions.  The last leg was altered to an 18km run up towards Alpha and then cutting down avoiding the ridge top travel where the snow was quite thick and the southerly was raging at ridge top.  It still had the main climb up which always seems to be hard going.  Again on stopping to delayer the girls were right on our tails, so we had to keep moving.  It is great to have some close racing to keep us on our toes, quite literally I’d have to say.  On up to the first saddle to a ridge and then on up to get the main ridge to see the Volunteers on the top, wow they were amazing as it was really very cold up there- thanks so much! Steve Hannon in particular on a very exposed cold spot!   Then it was turn right down the ridge line and fence line to the track which leads us down to Waterfall creek.  It was an enjoyable run down with Lake Wanaka looking stunning with snow on the hills and a flat calm lake. I guess you could see the finish line at this point, you could certainly hear it.  But we were still a wee way off.  It was a fun run down hill, down waterfall creek to the lake to follow it around for a further 4 km to the finish line.  


We knew we were getting chased down and thought Julia and Kristy would be fast along the lake front, so we tried to keep the legs turning over at some speed to get us home!  We made it and were delighted to take home the women’s title again this year.  Thanks to Red Bull Defiance for another great event and to all the Volunteers and the locals support, it really helps to get us to the finish line.  Thanks to Sia for pushing so hard and for being a fabulous team mate.  Thanks to Outside Sports for the ongoing support and for keeping my trusty Specialized stead on track and in good health.  Thanks also to PAK'nSAVE, always very supportive.  It was a very tough race made harder by conditions, the cold and the snow just made it even more of an adventure out there.


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