Ward and Sheppard take two straight stages to remain in Snowies’ leaders jerseys
Kyle Ward and Samara Sheppard win back-to-back stages to tighten grip on overall lead at Snowies MTB Festival…
SNOWY MOUNTAINS, NSW—Snowies Mountain Bike Festival elite men’s and women’s race leaders Kyle Ward (AUS) and Samara Sheppard (NZL) increased their overall lead after claiming their second straight win on the first of two races on Saturday morning in the iconic Snowy Mountains of New South Wales.
A day after taking the 5.5km stage 1 time trail, the two took out the 21.5km Thredbo Summit Smash before preparing to back up and defend their lead on general classification with the brand new 6km Thredbo All Mountain Descent later in the day.
Ward (56:29) again bested defending champion Andrew Blair (Specialized Racing Australia), who finished second (58:24) for the second straight day, with Sebastian Jayne (Subaru Marathon MTB) rounding out the podium in third (58:25) just one second off the two-time Australian XCM champion and 2014 Commonwealth Games representative.
“The plan was to take it to the other fellas from the gun,” said Ward immediately following the race. “Yesterday afternoon was a solid 5-kilometre lap around Lake Crackenback, but I think in terms of making time over the weekend it was probably one of the harder more technical trails to ride and make more of a difference.”
In elite women’s action, Sheppard (01:08:02) cruised to the finish with a two-minute lead over international endurance star Renata Bucher (SUI), who again took second (01:10:04). Cristy Henderson (AUS) finished third.
“I was a little far back sitting on Renata for a while and then passed her,” she continued. “I then found my rhythm and just rode to the end.”
Currently Ward holds a 1 minute 28 second lead over Blair on GC, while Sheppard is 2:10 on Bucher.
Two stages remain following Saturday’s action, including the 20.5km Gravity Check descent and 45km XCM closes out the final day of racing in the three-day, five-stage mountain bike festival that is quickly becoming a bucket-list race in just in second year.
Like last year, 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.
“I encourage [the other riders] to go crazy and chase me but I think the general approach will be to race smoother,” said Ward regarding his rivals’ strategy on stage 3. “By minimising the risks at least you can show up tomorrow and have a shot but if you lay it down it won’t be too pretty.
“But for me, the strategy was to empty the tanks and leave it on the uphill from Crackenback to Thredbo and try to get a good gap and take that into Downhill Valley Trail and also the marathon stage,” he concluded.
“I think we look pretty good in Yellow at the moment, so may just have to stay in it.”
The Snowies Mountain Bike Festival is proudly supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency Destination NSW.
Results – Top 3
- Kyle Ward, AUS, 00:56:29
- Andrew Blair, AUS, 00:58:24
- Sebastian Jayne, AUS, 00:58:25
- Samara Sheppard, NZL, 01:08:02
- Renata Bucher, SUI, 01:10:04
- Cristy Henderson, AUS, 01:11:29
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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