Over two days on a gruelling 142km course, the 132 competitors who entered Red Bull Defiance had every weather anomaly thrown at them as they traversed the amazing high-country stations in Wanaka, New Zealand. From snow to sun, athletes mountain biked, ran, kayaked, shot clay pigeons and abseiled down a gnarly rockface on the way to the finish.
For day one, the 66 two-person teams started off with a marathon mountain bike ride, before transitioning into a steep, technical climb and then completing a daunting abseil together off a cliff into the native bush of Diamond Lake. Finally, the day wrapped up with a 20km kayak through the strong currents of the Matukituki River, where the crews battled eye-watering winds and choppy water.
Braden Currie and team-mate Josiah Middaugh crossed the day's finish line first, a whopping 14 minutes ahead of the next team, proving that the international racing rivals do make a great team. "This guy Josiah is an absolute legend," said Currie after the gruelling first day. "You race with some people and you know that they'll suffer through everything you throw at them – and he's one of them."
On day two, athletes awoke to cold rain and almost freezing temperatures as they paddled at dawn from the foreshore of Lake Wanaka towards the mouth of the mighty Clutha.
By the time they reached the second mountain-bike stage, temperatures plummeted further and, as the athlete's climbed the Criffel Range and passed the snow line, they encountered near hypothermia-inducing conditions.
I don’t think I’ve ever raced in such bad weather conditions. When we hit the top of that mountain-bike ride, it was snowing. We were coming off Criffel Peak and I think I was getting hypothermic, my chin was going, but I knew I couldn’t stop. It was a matter of survivalBraden Currie
The weather was so intense that the run had to be cut by 11km to avoid the deepest snow. However, competitors were still faced with frozen extremities and plety of teams needed assistance to take off their helmets and zip their jackets on.
In the end, Currie and Middaugh took the championship crown. For the remaining teams it was a struggle against the elements, but one that was ultimately rewarding and a personal accomplishment that no doubt they'll remember for the rest of their lives.
Red Bull Defiance 2017 final results
Men's Elite Winners: Braden Currie and Josiah Middaugh
Total Time: 10h 22m 21s
Women’s Elite Winners: Sia Svendsen and Joanna William
Total Time: 13h 26m 16s
Mixed Elite Winners: Marcel Hagener and Simone Maier
Total Time: 12h 2m 20s