Brendan Johnston and Samara Sheppard wrapped up the 2016 XCM National Series titles in style with dominant victories at the Kowalski Classic in Canberra today, Sunday October 16th 2017.
Johnston is a dual national XCM Champion, and has made his mark on most of the major marathon races around Australia – including those that make up the National XCM Series. Johnston added the national series crown to his cabinet, winning the 100km race in a time of 4:34:56, more than five minutes ahead of second placed Cameron Ivory, with Marc Williams a further 11 minutes further back.
While Sheppard, who notched up victories in The James Williamson Memorial Enduro and Bayview Blast ensured her first overall series win taking out the elite women race in a time of 5:28:51, ahead of XCM National Champion Peta Mullens and Kelly Bartlett, more than 10 minutes behind.
After heavy downfalls last month, which forced the postponement of the Kowalski Classic, nearly 900 riders were faced with sunny skies but endured howling north westerlies at Kowen Forest, which added to the toughness of the race.
Johnston was looking for five straight XCM National Round victories at the iconic event, and said he had more to worry about than just the conditions.
“I was pretty nervous coming in to today ’cause there was some good competition like Cam and Kyle Ward.”
“Cam was really good and made it such a tough day. He doesn’t let up and I had pressure on the pedals for the whole four and a half hours.”
The duo made it a race of two early on until the Canberra local broke away at the 76km to claim top step on the podium.
The women’s race at the Kowalski Classic
It was a similar story in the women with Mullens, who wore the green and gold kit as Australian marathon champion, challenged Sheppard for bragging rights, and by the 50km mark they were still together before the momentum swung the New Zealander’s way.
“That’s the last time I race the #kowalskiclassic on a hard tail” is what I say EVERY single year 🙄 Body is destroyed after a sub-6hr #xcmseries finale at #kowenforest 🚑 Bridesmaid on the day and in the @mtbaust #natseries to @samarasheppard with @kellyannbartlett storming home in third today woo! Now for the 7hr drive home 👎 📸 @tbsphotography
“The last few kilometres were really hard, it was so hard to dig in, but I got home. There were a couple of tricky climbs in there and step-ups as well so that was hard when you aren’t 100 percent in the mind and struggling,” said Sheppard.
“I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to race the marathon series it’s been fantastic all the courses across the country and seeing all different parts of Australia.”
The Kowalski Classic was the final race in the seven round national series which began in February this year.