Back to back wins for Samara Sheppard and Anton Cooper at Oceania Mountain Bike Championships
New Zealand claimed five of six titles on offer on the opening day of competition at the 2018 Oceania Mountain Bike Championships in Dunedin, New Zealand, Saturday February 10.
Anton Cooper (New Zealand) and Samara Sheppard (New Zealand) both successfully defended their elite Cross-country titles with Cooper winning for the third year in a row. Under 23 gold went to Eden Cruise (New Zealand) and Charlotte Rayner (New Zealand). Junior world champion Cameron Wright (Australia) was too strong in the under 19 men’s and Phoebe Young (New Zealand) collected the under 19 women’s.
Reigning Commonwealth Games gold medallist Cooper set the early pace in the men’s race with countryman Sam Gaze able to hold the pace over the opening half of the six-lap race. A mechanical issue for Gaze saw him drop off Cooper, though undeterred he powered on to claim silver with Cameron Ivory (Australia) completing the podium.
“It is a big one for me. It is a big wad of points for me and the Continental title is always something special,” Cooper said.
“It was a really tough course. As the laps wore on it got tougher and the extended effort crept up on me. But I really enjoyed it.”
The early season success sets Cooper up on a strong path as he looks to defend his Commonwealth Games gold medal at April’s Games on the Gold Coast.
“I am very happy with my progress. It’s nice to get early season wins because it gives you confidence for the rest of the season. There is some really tough competition in the Oceania region so to get the win is always nice.”
There was no stopping Sheppard in the elite women’s from claiming back to back titles with the New Zealander on her own from the start in the five-lap race. With clear dirt in front of her Sheppard rode her own race on route to gold. Behind Holly Harris left it all out on the course to collect silver for the second year in a row with Kate Fluker (New Zealand) completing the podium.
“It’s a privilege to win the Oceania Champs again this year, living in Australia and having support there but being a Kiwi and a proud New Zealander,” Sheppard explained.
“I am really pleased with my form so far this year. We’ve been doing some hard strength work, putting in the building blocks and everything is moving on a consistent incline which is fantastic and building up to hopefully competing in the Commonwealth Games.”
In the under 23 category New Zealand’s Rayner took gold improving from her bronze medal finish 12 months ago, beating Charlotte Culver (Australia). Cruise (New Zealand) took out the under 23 men’s in a New Zealand 1-2-3 ahead of Henry Jaine (New Zealand) and Paul Wright (New Zealand).
Crowds were treated to an exciting show in the under 19 men’s with reigning world champion Wright showing his class to take a convincing win in an all Australian top three ahead of Matthew Dinham and defending champion Sam Fox.
Young raced away from her rivals to take out the under 19 women’s title, finishing over a minute and a half clear of silver medallist Teagan Atherstone (Australia) with Ruby Ryan (New Zealand) completing the podium.
2018 Oceania Mountain Bike Cross-country Medallists
Gold – Anton Cooper (New Zealand) 1:21:54
Silver – Sam Gaze (New Zealand) 1:23:51
Bronze – Cameron Ivory (Australia) 1:26.33
Gold – Samara Sheppard (New Zealand) 1:24:28
Silver – Holly Harris (Australia) 1:27:56
Bronze – Kate Fluker (New Zealand) 1:29:35
Under 23 Men
Gold – Eden Cruise (New Zealand) 1:11.20
Silver – Henry Jaine (New Zealand) 1:13.37
Bronze – Paul Wright (New Zealand) 1:15.11
Under 23 Women
Gold – Charlotte Rayner (New Zealand) 1:18:57
Silver – Charlotte Culver (Australia) 1:25.10
Under 19 Men
Gold – Cameron Wright (Australia) 57:53
Silver – Matthew Dinham (Australia) 59:27
Bronze – Sam Fox (Australia) 59:39
Under 19 Women
Gold – Phoebe Young (New Zealand) 57:58
Silver – Teagan Atherstone (Australia) 58:35
Bronze – Ruby Ryan (New Zealand) 1:00:10