Lachlan Wilhelm wins Ford 1-Day Challenge.

Lachlan Wilhelm of Brisbane is the inaugural Champion of the Ford 1-Day Challenge 180km ride around Savai’i. The ride is the second event of the inaugural Savai’i Games this year.

His time of six hours and fifteen minutes is admirable. He has not ridden this far before, or in this heat. His longest ride is 130kms, quite a difference with the extra 50kms required for Saturday’s race. 

Six riders were entered for the inaugural race and only four finishers. 

The others are Wally Collins of Afega, Jacqui Webster of Sydney and Daniel Afoa of Falefa. Four finishers out of six riders. One withdrew the morning of the race from sickness, and unfortunately Darren Young sustained unbearable needle pains on the sole of his troublesome feet to have him pull out with 40kms to go. I do not remember him ever opting out of a race before. He is not a quitter, he would be sorely disappointed to have ridden so far only to fall short.

The race started in the dark at 5am at Manase, and headed west to Asau. It was the perfect time to ride, in the dark and in the cool of the morning. The hour mark had us at the top of Aopo village. 

Dawn was breaking and riders could be independent of the Ford Ranger’s bright beams. 

The next sixty minutes had the leading riders climbing the steep Papa, Sataua 5km climb. By then the riders were well separated. Lachlan and Wally were inseparable at the front. Jacqui from Sydney was second and Daniel and Darren were negotiating their aches and pains and taking it easy at the back. 

The long 8km descend from Falealupo to Neiafu to Falelima was amazing. Then the big rain fell. It did not stop until Salelologa or another three hours of riding, a heavy tropical downpour. By then the riders were getting tired. Five hours had elapsed for the front riders. The rear enders were now Jacqui and Daniel. Darren was trying to make up the deficit to Lachlan and Wally. 

Those two stayed together interchanging the lead to share the load for the ride. We were setting up for a sprint finish. 

In the end, Lachlan got home two minutes ahead of Wally.  We were all expecting Wally to be competitive in the first half of the race and then fall off. After all, his longest ride to Saturday was 80kms in the Tour of Samoa last year. But he was still averaging 29km per hour with 10kms to go.

“He was with me the whole way. It was only the last 3kms that we became separated. Amazing really,” Lachlan told at the end of the race. 

Wally crossed next. He was grateful to finish in a good time of six hours and seventeen minutes. Two minutes behind the inaugural winner. 

Finishing third and the first female winner of the race was Jacqui Webster. She had 7hrs 49mins 33secs on the timer. 

“I absolutely loved it,” Jacqui was all smiles at the end of her ride. “It is the best race ever.” 

If only she did not stop for coffee and cake at Amoa Resort, she just felt like a coffee right there and then, she might have been closer to 7hrs. She reckons she is going to do sub-7hrs when she defends her title next year. She is bringing a bunch of her friends to the Savai’i Games. 

She was full of complements of the race course, the race and the Savai’i landscape throughout the race. 

“This is fantastic and beautiful. I will be back again next year,” she added. 

Twenty minutes behind Jacqui came Daniel. He sustained a nasty fall at the 100km mark. He was bloodied and bruised, but finished strongly to the jeers of the crowd at the finish. 

Daniel was none the worse for wear from the fall. That is just the athlete he is. Next week, with all his pains and sores, he will line up for the third game of the inaugural Savai’i Games for the 42km marathon. He will be the only one to compete in all three events of the Savai’i Games this year. Daniel was part of the winning Team Savai’i relay team in the Upolu-Savai’i 22.3km swim on Thursday. 

The Ford 1 Day Challenge will be back next year in early April with both winners vowing to defend their titles in the 2017 Savai’i Games. 

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