VICTORIANS Jarad Kohlar and James Pretto used their Tasmanian adventure racing experience to cross the line first on the opening day of the 350-kilometre Mark Webber Challenge in Launceston yesterday.
Both previous winners of the Freycinet Challenge, the Melburnians conquered an action-packed agenda featuring rafting down the Cataract Gorge, mountain biking at Kate Reed, paddling the South Esk, orienteering at the Trevallyn Reserve and running just about everywhere in between.
They spent much of their seven hours racing in close competition with the Queensland pairing of Guy Andrews and Robert Pomie, Launceston's reigning champions Mark Padgett and Mark Hinder and New Zealand's hot favourites Richard Ussher and Braden Currie.
Kohlar and Pretto, representing Swisse Active, were eventually confirmed as day one leaders followed by Padgett and Hinder's Team Ironhouse with Ussher and Currie as Team Tasmania dropping to third after a 20-minute penalty for missing a checkpoint.
``We spent most of the day in groups and we just got lucky and kicked away on the zig-zag track at the end but were surprised to find we were in front,'' said Kohlar, 30.
``It's probably the most professional event of its kind in Australia and has a world-class course. Add Mark's vision and it's hitting all the nails on the head and is one of my favourites to take part in.
``There's so much good quality adventure racing here, the mountain bike terrain is awesome. Tasmania is just built for this type of adventure.
``I live in Melbourne about four kilometres from the CBD so I have to drive for about an hour to go for a good mountain bike ride whereas here it's all within a kilometre of the town so it's quite a contrast.''
Second across the line were two more Victorians, David Leggo and Jarrod Mitchell, although they expected plenty of time penalties for missed checkpoints.
``We went hard early and just tried to stay with the elite guys,'' Mitchell said.
``We missed some optional checkpoints because we were thinking of five days not just one. The course was sensational although we had a few wallaby near misses.''
The teams of Padgett and Hinder and Ussher and Currie were not far behind, all full of praise for their day's activities.
``This format is fantastic,'' said two-time world adventure racing champion Ussher, 36, of Nelson.
``It's a fairly unique experience. It's great to see so many superstars from across so many other codes.
``The accessibility of this course is so cool, it's good for the public to see us and get an appreciation of what we do.''
Andrews and Pomie said the secret of their early lead was also down to concentration.
``We minimised the mistakes and just want to keep doing that,'' said surf lifesaving great Andrews.
``It's challenging but very entertaining. This is my fifth Mark Webber Challenge so I'm getting to know the state really well.
``This is one of the best events we can do. It's a must-do and we've got all the best guys in it this year.''
The event continues today on Ben Lomond where it will be joined by Webber.