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Upset Winners Roll NZ’s Premier Mountain Bike Race

Upset Winners Roll NZ’s Premier Mountain Bike Race

Celebrating 32 years last Saturday, Upper Hutt’s Cactus Karapoti Classic continued its renown as the Southern Hemisphere’s longest running mountain bike race. But defending championship among both men and women played second fiddle to standout rides from the other side of the Tasman.

Established in 1986, the Cactus Karapoti Classic is the longest running mountain bike race in the Southern Hemisphere. Based in Upper Hutt’s rugged Akatarawa Ranges near Wellington, the course is an old-school adventure ride featuring huge hills and river crossings amid remote and rugged forest trails.

This year some 600 riders from eight countries also battled heavy rain and muddy conditions that turned the 32nd event into an epic.

The woman’s race was certainly an epic. Local Upper Hutt doctor and three-time winner, Kim Hurst, was odds-on favourite. A year ago the 38 year old broke her own course record and was keen to push the pace early in this years race. But on the first climb up Deadwood Ridge, Wellingtonian-turned-Aussie, Samara Sheppard, threw out a challenge that Hurst could not match.

Sheppard first tasted success at Karapoti 10 years ago when winning the junior women’s race in what is still a race record. She hadn’t had much luck since, with several years marked by mechanicals and punctures that saw her limited to twice finishing third. But intent on turning that around, Sheppard led the rest of the way, her performance so impressive that she stopped the clock over six minutes clear of Hurst and despite the conditions, only 33secs outside Hurst’s record.

Sheppard finished in 2hrs 42min 45min, with Hurst holding on well for second place in 2hrs 49min 07secs to bring her Karapoti tally to three wins and four second placings. Nelson’s Ingrid Richter claimed third in 3hrs 05min 11secs.

The men’s race was both the same but different. Defending champion Jack Compton lived up to his favouritism by taking the lead up the famous Devil’s Staircase, and looked to have the race won until puncturing with just five kilometres to ride. Australian Kyle Ward wasted no time, sweeping past the unfortunate Porirua rider to take the win.

Ward was quick to acknowledge Compton’s bad luck, but pleased with a first-rate win in a fast time of 2hrs 17min 40secs that made the Australian the fourth fastest Karapoti winner in history. Behind him, Compton nursed his bike home in 2hrs 19min 01secs, with Wellington’s Ed Crossling in third in 2hrs 21min 07scs.

Among the 600-odd finishers behind those surprise winners, Wellington’s 72-year-old Peter Schmitz was the eldest and improved his own record of more Karapoti’s than anyone else, at 28. At the other age of the age spectrum, 11 year olds Lucy Jurke and Emily Hannah became the youngest ever female finishers of the feature 50k Classic.

Full results at www.karapoti.co.nz/history.

© Scoop Media

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