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The Intermontane Challenge wrapped up last week in Kamloops, British Columbia with a 30-kilometer time trial, providing a chance for Chris Sheppard (Santa Cruz-WTB-FOX) and Sue Butler (MonaVie-Cannondale) to cement their overall wins in the week-long stage race.
Neither winner faced significant threats to their overall race leads, and both protected their positions by riding carefully on the sinewy singletrack of Kenna Cartwright Park just on the edge of Kamloops.
Their consistency in the face of heat, hard efforts and confusing courses was rewarded with $10,000 (Canadian) each, possibly the richest winner’s purse in mountain biking. In the men’s race, Brian Cooke and Evan Plews were second and third, while Amada Carey (second) and Sarah Kaufmann (third) rounded out the podium in the women’s race.
The time trial
By the stage 5 TT, many participants were exhausted and simply ready to wrap it up. A week of record temperatures had made for unusually challenging conditions.
The race started 45 minutes late, as several portions of the course reused the same trails and upon a rider’s suggestion required more marshals than originally planned. At one-minute intervals, the fastest riders rolled out first.
Sheppard stamped his authority on the race by crossing the line with the fastest time of 1:27:42, more than two minutes faster than Plews. Among the women, Carey was faster than Butler by more than eight minutes, but it was not enough to erase her deficit on GC, and she slotted safely into second overall.
“I went hard today on the climbs, because you can’t just go easy, and regardless, it would have been a hard battle today,” said Sheppard, later that evening. “Ben was just 3:20 behind (overall, had he finished stage four),” he continued. “Who knows, you could have gone off one of those corners… just those subtle little mistakes can start piling up.”
After picking up his winner’s check, Sheppard said he was happy with the win, but would rather have not seen his competitors crash out. Jeremiah Bishop and Benjamin Sonntag had sustained race-ending injuries on prior days, and Tinker Juarez forfeited his overall position after getting lost and DNFing on stage four.