Rotorua-based Wellington rider Samara Sheppard and Dunedin’s Mary Gray were the best of the New Zealanders, both finishing 12thon the first day of the UCI Mountain Bike cross-country World Championships in Austria.

Sheppard was 12th in the women’s under-23 race, while Gray was 12th in the junior women on the first of three days of competition at the alpine town of Saalfelden near the border with Germany.

After two days of wet weather, like the downhill competition last weekend, the day turned hot and humid with drying conditions.

Sheppard, who has been based in Switzerland with the IXS Wheelers team this year, started well to be fourth after the opening loop but a costly mistake and a crash pushed her back in the field. She dropped back to 17thbefore fighting her way back to 12that the finish.

“It was a tough race. It was a tough course, more technical than you think at speed with all those roots. It had dried out a lot from yesterday and was in pretty good condition but I didn’t quite have the legs today to match the other girls,” Sheppard said.

Sheppard’s teammate and training partner Yolanda Neff (SUI) took out the world title in a close battle ahead of a fast-finishing Yana Belomoyna (UKR).

Gray enjoyed an excellent race, avoiding a crash at the start to lie in fourth after the start loop. The young Dunedin National Champion settled into consistent laps for a strong 12thplace finish in a 48-strong field at her first World Championship.

In other racing Rotorua’s Dirk Peters finished 28thin a super competitive under-23 men’s race, started well and then reeling off six consistent 13 minute laps.

“I had a pretty good start for me in 23rd. I had hoped to make it into the top 30 and move up each lap,” Peters said.

“It is World Champs and everyone comes in with their best form and I just wasn’t fast enough today. I was a little bit disappointed but then again nothing went wrong, and I had a solid race so I can’t complain too much.”

It was not such good news for Christchurch teammate Tom Bradshaw who suffered an asthma attack midway through the race, with the young rider coping with a cold and racing in hot and humid conditions. He was treated and recovered fully later in the day.

Tomorrow New Zealand has high hopes with world number two ranked Anton Cooper along with Nigel McDowell, Sam Gaze and Tom Filmer in the junior men and Rosara Joseph and Karen Hanlen in the elite women.


Junior women: Andrea Waldis (SUI) 1:07.29, 1l Sofia Wiedenroth (GER) at 30s, 2; Lena Putz (GER) at 1:19, 3. Also New Zealander: Mary Gray at 7:46, 12.

Under 23 Men: Ondrej Cink (CZE) 1:19.40, 1; Michiel van der Heijden (NED) at 14s, 2; Daniele Braidot (ITA) at 48s, 3.Also New Zealanders: Dirk Peters at 7:09, 28; Tom Bradshaw dnf.

Under 23 Women: Jolanda Neff (SUI) 1:23.57, 1; Yana Belomoyna (UKR) at 18s, 2; Paula Gorycka (POL) at 27s, 3. AlsoNew Zealander: Samara Sheppard at 6:40, 12.

Photos: Marius Maasewerd

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