SNOWY MOUNTAINS, NSW-Australian Kyle Ward and New Zealander Samara Sheppard both time-trialled in to an opening round win and the overall lead at the second annual Snowies Mountain Bike Festival in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales on Friday evening.
With four stages remaining over the next two days, the stage 1 winners will be looking to hold on to their leaders jerseys in their respective elite men’s and women’s fields.
“It’s always nice to start in the leaders jersey as it gives you a bit of confidence,” Ward told In2Adventure following the 5.5-kilometre time trial to start the race. “I’m focusing on watching Andy Blair and his teammate Shaun Lewis as they are always hard to beat around these trails, and Lewis Cressy who was on the podium tonight as well so that will be tight racing.
“There are two youngsters that I always keep an eye on in Guy Frail and Sebastian Jayne, so it’s going to be a good weekend of racing ahead.”
“Kyle told me to take the stage seriously,” she admitted. “You want to start the tour on a good note, so it’s good motivation for the next few stages to keep wearing the leaders jersey.
“We’ve been here for a week, so we’ve done the valley trail and we did the time trial course before the race, and we’ve done the all mountain trail as well.
“So, we’ve done our research.”
Ward edged two-time Australian XCM champion and last year’s Snowies winner Andrew Blair (Specialized Racing Australia) by three seconds to take the win in a time of 13 minutes 38 seconds. Blair also conceded the opening time trial stage last year before sweeping the final three stages to claim the overall win. Fellow Aussie Lewis Cressy (ONYAbike-Hammer Maxxis) rounded out the podium in third (14:06).
In elite women’s action, Sheppard recorded the fastest time of the day (15:47), eight seconds ahead of her “biggest threat” and last year’s third-place finisher Renata Bucher (SUI) in second and followed by Zoe Cuthbert (AUS) in third.
Although the three-day, five-stage event has been extended in 2016, this year’s race still features 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 substantial $10,000 cash prize pool.
Like last year’s historic event, this year’s race kicked off with a gruelling 5.5km time trial around the scenic bushland surrounding Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa. Following the time trial, the race features the 21.5km Thredbo Summit Smash and the brand new 6km Thredbo All Mountain Descent on Saturday before the 20.5km Gravity Check descent and 45km XCM closes out the final day of racing.
“Today was an interesting stage because you don’t want to lose any time straight up off the box,” said Ward. “Hopefully haven’t spent too much energy going into tomorrow’s stages…followed by Sunday’s two rather difficult stages. So big weekend ahead, but nice to start it off in the leaders jersey.”
The Snowies Mountain Bike Festival is proudly supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency Destination NSW.
Results – Top 5
- Kyle Ward, AUS, 00:13.38.637
- Andrew Blair, AUS, 00:13:41.676
- Lewis Cressy, AUS, 00:14:06.618
- Sebastian Jayne, AUS, 00:14:13.684
- Guy Frail, AUS, 00:14:32.999
- Samara Sheppard, NZL, 00:15:47.370
- Renata Bucher, SUI, 00:15:55.030
- Zoe Cuthbert, AUS, 00:16:08.400
- Briony Mattocks, AUS, 00:16:25:121
- Cristy Henderson, AUS, 00:16:41:47
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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