Sheppard sweeps Snowies and joins stage 5 winner Ward in claiming overall crown
New Zealand’s Samara Sheppard and Australia’s Kyle Ward win final stage and capture elite women’s and men’s Snowies Mountain Bike Festival titles…
SNOWY MOUNTAINS, NSW—Wellington’s Samara Sheppard (NZL) raced to a clean sweep of all five stages at the three-day Snowies Mountain Bike Festival this Valentine’s Day weekend at Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa & Thredbo Resort in the iconic Snowy Mountains of New South Wales.
The 25-year-old Kiwi dominated each stage including the fifth – and final – 45-kilometre marathon on Sunday afternoon after winning the 20.5km Gravity Check descent just hours earlier.
“I was really happy to get out in front and get some clean track and find my rhythm,” said Sheppard. “It was actually great having a lot of the men around as well to keep pushing you along and keeping you focused so I was really happy with the last stage and getting to the finish still in the yellow.
“No mechanicals, no crashes… so we’ve had a good weekend.”
Sheppard topped general classification (GC) more than 12 minutes over her nearest rival – international endurance superstar Renata Bucher (SUI) – who finished third overall last year and second on every stage over the weekend. Aussie Cristy Henderson finished third on the final stage and on GC.
In elite men’s action, Kyle Ward (AUS), who won stages 1, 2 and 4, rode to his fourth win of the race by defeating stage 3 winner and last year’s champion Andrew Blair (Specialized Racing Australia) by nearly three and a half minutes.
“I didn’t really have a race plan for that one other than I wanted to make sure I stayed in the yellow jersey until the end of it,” said Ward. “But it’s kind of hard because when you think about the race duration it’s 45km so you can’t really attack it like the other ones.
“In hindsight it’s equal amount of race time for that one event really from what we have done on the other two days, so in terms of tactics I was happy to lead some of the first lap and just keep it under wraps with a steady tempo.”
Ward’s strategy was to stay on the rear wheel of Blair, who trailed Ward on GC by a minute and a half going into the final leg.
“I knew it was going to be up to ‘Blairy’ to make up the time so I just put the ball in his court and he took the front on the second lap and then I took an opportunity on the third and final lap going into the first climb through transition,” he explained.
“I saw a gap open up and took my chance and stayed away for the rest of the lap…just happy to cross the line and finish off a big weekend of racing.”
For Blair, second place was bittersweet for the inaugural winner, but overall he is pleased with his valiant performance.
Going into the final stage, Blair still held out hope for a win although he admits the odds were against him.
“Anything can happen and I know that going into a fairly flat 50km stage with a lot of wind and with a deficit like a minute and a half that the pressure is on me to try and attack Kyle,” he explained. “There is a reason why he’s got a minute and a half cause he’s the strongest guy and so the odds are stacked against you and all you can do is put your cards on the table and hope it all works out.
“I took a couple of risks on the descents but it wasn’t enough to get away from Kyle, and he sort of sat on my wheel for a couple of laps and then attacked me with one to go and it was all over from there – but I gave it a shot.”
This year’s race still featured an Alpine start line at 1,260 metres in elevation, as well as 100 kilometres of rugged mountain terrain, technical single track, monstrous ascents, daring descents and, of course, a hefty $10,000 cash prize pool.
Elite and amateur riders alike faced a barrage of mountain biking disciplines, including a 5.5km time trial, 21.5km Thredbo Summit Smash, 6km Thredbo All Mountain Descent, the Gravity Check and the 45k marathon.
One of the event hubs, Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa offered competitors and spectators use of the resort with properties from studios to three bedroom apartments covering all budgets and tastes. And the other, Thredbo Resort also had a wide range of accommodation and activities, giving visitors a perfect base to explore this spectacular part of NSW.
The Snowies Mountain Bike Festival is proudly supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency Destination NSW.
Stage 5 Results – Top 3
- Kyle Ward, NSW, 1:53:36
- Andy Blair, ACT, 1:55:05
- Lewis Cressy, ACT, 1:58:17
- Samara Sheppard, NZL, 2:08:44
- Renata Bucher, SUI, 2:17:14
- Cristy Henderson, ACT, 2:17:27
- Kyle Ward, NSW, 4:06:53.67
- Andy Blair, ACT, 4:10:35:02
- Sebastian Jayne, VIC, 4:16:05.04
- Lewis Cressey, 4:18:14:44
- Shaun Lewis, 4:24:48:07
- Samara Sheppard, NZL, 4:45:53.52
- Renata Bucher, SUI, 4:57:59.53
- Cristy Henderson, ACT, 5:02:40.82
- Briony Mattocks 5:06:47:18
- Jessica Simpson 5:12:48:90
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Upcoming Events (2016):
- Snowies MTB Festival – Snowy Mountains, NSW, 12-14 February 2016
- Australian Cross Triathlon Championships (2016 Worlds Qualifier) – Snowy Mountains, NSW, 27-28 February 2016
- Mountain Designs Adventure Race Australia – NSW, 20 March 2016
- Queensland Cross Triathlon Championships (2016 Worlds Qualifier) – Sunshine Coast, QLD, 16-17 April 2016
- Mountain Designs Adventure Race Australia 18hr Dark Side & 12hr Dawn Attack – Sunshine Coast, QLD, 29-30 April, 2016
- ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships – Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa, Snowy Mountains, NSW, 18-20 November 2016
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Photo Credit: Mandy Lamont | In2Adventure