Victorian duo win challenge

AFTER 350 competitive kilometres in the Tasmanian wilderness, Victorians Jarad Kohlar and James Pretto won the gruelling Swisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge, which finished in Hobart yesterday.

The Swisse Active team took the lead on the opening day of the five-day Challenge in Launceston, and were never headed, despite a tough battle with pre-event favourites, New Zealanders Richard Ussher and Braden Currie, competing as Team Tasmania.

To cap off a perfect week, Swisse Active crossed the finish line first on the final day to showcase its domination of the event, finishing one hour, two minutes and 39 seconds clear of its rivals.

Last year's winners, Team Iron House's Mark Padgett and Mark Hinder, were third, two hours, 34 minutes and 10 seconds behind the winners.

For Kohlar and Pretto, the $20,000 first prize was an added bonus.

``I'm really stoked to win. I've raced quite a lot this year, doing five races in China and putting together my own team,'' Kohlar said.

``It's really hard to win a big international race. We've had a few thirds and sevenths and a couple of did not finishes this year, but it's awesome to come down to Tassie and race around some beautiful country.

``To have a win and beat Richard and Braden, and the two Marks, it does mean a lot.''

Teammate Pretto was just as thrilled with their victory.

``I'm always trying to chase Jarad down in the run and on that last run leg he was running away from me a bit, so I had to yell at him to slow down, but it was a really good five days and I've loved it,'' Pretto said.

The second-placed New Zealanders battled illness across the final two days of the event, and some equipment failure on day 3, but pushed on gamely to finish on the podium.

``The tough part for us today was the first run. We pushed pretty hard to hold on there, and it wasn't easy out there today,'' team leader Richard Ussher said.

``We just tried to hang on and then on the paddle leg we knew we could relax a bit and bring it home.

``I rate this event extremely highly and some of the sections we've done here have rivalled anything we've done anywhere in the world.

``Tasmania's a beautiful spot and a great place to hold an adventure race.''

Fourth place went to Pure Tasmania and the French pairing of Mimi Guillot and Jacky Boiset, followed by the Renault combination of ironman Guy Andrews and race partner Robert Pomie.

London Olympians Karstern Forsterling and Chris Morgan contested the event for the first time as James Boag, as did the glamour team of the event, Sally Fitzgibbons and Jordan Mercer, the Red Bullettes, who finished seventh.

Results after day 5 -  

Elite pairs - 1. Swisse Active (Jarad Kohlar (Vic) and James Pretto (Vic).

2. Tasmania (Richard Usser (NZ) and Braden Currie (NZ) +1h 02m 39s.

3. Iron House (Mark Padgett (TAS) and Mark Hinder (TAS)  +2h 34m 10s.

4. Pure Tasmania (Mimi Guillot (FRA) and Jacky Boiset (FRA) +4h 10m 35s.

5. Renault (Guy Andrews and Robert Pomie, QLD) +7h 23m 51.

Enthusiast pairs - 1. Back Country Adventure Addicts (David Leggo (VIC) and Jarrod Mitchell (VIC).

2. Tilford Auto Group (Craig Roden (TAS) and Mark Vanderstaay (TAS) +2h 27m 22s.

3. Xtech (Tim Robinson (VIC) and Dean Hemburrow (VIC) +3h 26m 52s.

Enthustiast team of 3 - 1. Renault Sport (Caine Eckstein (QLD), Deanna Blegg (VIC), Taylor Cecil (QLD).

2. Rexona (Ken Wallace, Courtney Atkinson, Gary Lloyd Sutherland (QLD) + 31m 26s.

3. Rexona No Quit (Chris Capel, Glenn DiSalvia, Eric Charpentier (NSW) +5h 26m 34s.

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