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A quick one week turnaround from Canada last weekend for New Zealand's World Cup mountainbike athletes saw the group of 11 travel down to New York state for the only World Cup round on US soil this year. Again, very changeable weather conditions throughout the practice days tried both Cross Country and Downhill disciplines, but race days were fine with dusty conditions - ideal for fast, close racing.
Cross Country Sheppard Fifth U23
Samara Sheppard (Rotorua, iXS Wheeler Pro Team) backed up her 4th place last weekend with a 5th at Windham in the Under 23 Women's race. Sheppard is maintaining and building great race form through her European campaign this year, and had to fight hard for position through her early laps in Windham to emerge clear in 5th. In her first year on a professional team in Europe, Sheppard was also strong right through to the end of the race, delivering a podium speed last lap to protect her fifth place on course.
Karen Hanlen (Whakatane) competed in the Elite Womens race in Windham, and after a week of recovery after a very tough race in Canada, the battered and bruised ex-multisporter raced strongly to a 29th place finish.
Downhill MacDonald Fifth, NZ Top Ten Strength
Windham is a familiar race course to the World Cup circuit, and changes made this year turned the already short course into a very high speed 2 1/2 minute test of accuracy. Any slight loss of momentum was punished immediately on the timing clock. The eight New Zealanders racing dealt with the changes well, with Friday qualifying seeing six of the eight advance to this morning's final. Brook MacDonald (MS Evil, Napier), Justin Leov (Trek World Racing, Dunedin) and Sam Blenkinsop (Lapierre International, Wanganui) all well placed in the top ten. James Dodds (Zerode, Rotorua) missed the top 80 cut by the slimmest of margins, and Adrian Loo (Invercargill) also didn't advance through qualifying at his first World Cup start.
New Zealand's top ten qualifiers raced to form this morning, with MacDonald looking the most likely through top course time splits to challenge for a place on the podium - which he did with a 5th this week. Leov was only a fraction of a second back from MacDoanld on the style of course he prefers for his best result of the World Cup season so far (6th), with Blenkinsop less than a second back from Leov in 7th. Three New Zealand riders in the top ten again this week.
Cam Cole (Lapierre International, Christchurch) and Matt Scoles (Cingolani Trek, Alexandra) didn't race as clean as they would have liked to 28th and 30th respectively, and George Brannigan (Devinci Global, Hawkes Bay) put his bike down on a slippery corner at the top of the course, fading to 65th.
The two mountainbike disciplines now split again, with Round Five of the World Cup Downhill back again in La Bresse, France on August 8th, and Round Five of the World Cup Cross Country at Nove Mesto Na Morave, Czeckoslovakia on August 14th.