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Storm forces delay at NZ Endurance Champs

Mayfield, just west of Ashburton, is sodden thanks to Cyclone Ita.

Mayfield, just west of Ashburton, is sodden thanks to Cyclone Ita. © Metservice

The windy and wet remnants of Cyclone Ita have rained grief on the Fiber Fresh New Zealand National Endurance Championships, forcing the postponement of today’s competition in Canterbury.

Persistent rain and sodden underfoot conditions resulted in today’s two 160km races, two 80km races, and two 123km events being postponed, with organisers hoping they can be run tomorrow.

The three-day event at Mayfield, inland from Ashburton, was to have kicked off at 1am, with senior riders heading off in the centrepiece event, the 160km ride. Organisers delayed the start to 4am in the hopes the weather would improve, but the decision was then made to call off all competition for the day.

Conditions underfoot at the ride base were described as a mud hole, with horses standing in knee-deep mud in places. Competitors and their teams who were preparing for the 4am start are sodden and huddling in trucks at the base.

If today’s six events are carried over to Saturday, the schedule will be packed. There were already eight events scheduled to run, including all the CTR championships. Another nine classes are scheduled for Sunday.

Organising committee member Barbary Avery said course marker John Farnell had earlier gone around the course to check markers and open gates. He found the track flooded in several places and along the roadside several vehicles has also come to grief, with one in a ditch after hitting a power pole.

Organisers may look at whether it was feasible to shift part of the ride base.

It was the first time that Avery knew of that such a ride had been postponed because of weather – endurance riders usually compete in all conditions.

“We’ll look at what today does,” she said.

Some riders with horses competing on both Friday and Saturday would need to be accommodated, particularly as the nationals are the final qualifying opportunity for the upcoming FEI Alltech World Equestrian Games in France later this year.

The centre of the storm lay due west of Cook Strait this morning, dragging heavy rain and strong winds on to much of the country.

Storm warnings remained in place for many regions, with Canterbury unlikely to see much relief until later today.

The weather has resulted in widespread flooding, with road closures, landslips and power cuts adding to woes.

The storm’s arrival coincided with the start of the long Easter Break for many.

Interisland ferry services were cancelled and slips closed the main trunk rail link south of Kaikoura, with passengers on the Coastal Pacific train staying overnight in the town.

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