My first encounter with Sam Manson was brief, just another guy who wanted a cheap paddle, of which I have meet many. A few days earlier I had watched him come into Klondyke Corner ahead of Richard Ussher in the one day (which of course was very impressive at 21 years old. I just didn’t immediately buy stock). The crowd was whispering “who’s that?”, I thought ok so maybe this guy has potential, but maybe not. I have seen many promising future stars never set foot on the mountain terrain again. He got the cheap paddle and although our meeting was short and sweet, it was clear he had big plans.
A few years later our paths crossed again and this time it was me who needed the favour. Come and work at Topsport (and you can have all the paddles you want). I don’t know why I chased him so hard. I honestly couldn’t tell you. It wasn’t the first impression, I just had a feeling, a feeling I couldn’t shake, a feeling that he needed Topsport as much as Topsport needed him.
I first caught a glimpse of Daniel Jones when he crossed the finish line of the two day at Klondyke Corner (a bit of a theme here) posting the fastest run time of the event that year (2009) and he was just a schoolboy. I remember that moment as if it was yesterday. It's always stuck with me. Why? It was a moment of brilliance with the promise of so much more to come.
There is no I in team and no I in Topsport. We have a really strong team culture and behind the scenes we are about as close as workmates can get. We work together, live together, train together and play together. In August last year we even managed our first overseas holiday together, getting in a few great weeks of training in the Queensland winter sun. We keep each other safe in an ever-changing outdoor environment and share the highs and lows that is the wild ride of running a business solely focused around one weekend of the year.
This Summer was all about Sam’s Coast to Coast and Dan’s Tarawea Ultra (which of course are on the same day). As a team we all did our bit to contribute as best we could to their build-up. The boys are so good at looking after each other. Ryan and Zack taking on so many river trips so that Sam could keep his training on track and just work when he really needed too. Dan was a little different and clocked up 8 trips over Goat Pass in January alone. Turns out its rather handy for the mountain run roster when someone is training for an ultra. Lachie was there to step in and help when we needed him, and Fleur took on many of the trips as well. Sam Clark flew down for a couple of weeks too when the pressure was really on, all because of that one weekend.
There is a long list of men and women who have performed outstanding well over the years at the Coast to Coast but have never been able to step up on to the top of the podium. It takes a huge amount of dedication, skill, sacrifice and so much more to take that huge leap from the minor placings and reach what truly is another level. When did I know Sam could do it? I have known for a long time his turn to reign would come. A trip to the North Island in October last year and I knew that time was now.
Sam’s victory was oh so sweet. The men’s race of late has always been won in an outstanding display of strength and endurance on the final ride home, with winners posting times a TT specialist would be proud of. Forever being told he couldn’t ride a bike Sam rode away from the field to claim his maiden victory and uphold that proud tradition.
Dan’s win at the Tarawera was just perfection. Executing his race plan like the true professional he has become. He wasn’t the favourite but that did nothing to stop him. Securing his ticket to race in California at Western States. A goal he has been chasing for a few years now. His race was harder to follow with so much going on around me for the day (especially after I dropped my phone at a crucial moment watching the screen shatter). The feeling I had when Ryan told me he won while Sam was just a few kms away from New Brighton was a moment I will never forget.
I have watched these two men prepare all Summer long and whilst I can never reveal all their secrets, I can tell you both these two victories were not by chance. Big dreams, big goals and hard work.
Congratulations Sam and Dan. That one weekend couldn’t have been sweeter, and I know you’re not done yet.
Endless respect - Katie Cambie