10 August 2023

Wollongong cyclist thrilled with top-10 finish in tough Scottish cross-country marathon

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Samara Sheppard covered in mud after finishing her cross-country marathon race.

Samara Sheppard celebrates her top-10 placing in the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships. Photo: SWPix.

Wollongong’s UCI Bike City ambassador Samara Sheppard is “thrilled” to have placed sixth in the gruelling Cycling World Championships cross-country marathon in Scotland.

Samara, 32, qualified for a spot on her native New Zealand team for the cycling championships with outstanding performances in Europe last month.

The women’s elite cross-country marathon was held at Glentress Forest near Peebles in the Scottish Borders on 6 August.

The event was part of the UCI’s unique world championships for 13 cycling disciplines over 11 days, incorporating road and track for able-bodied and para-cyclists, mountain bike downhill, marathon, cross-country, BMX racing, freestyle and flatland, trials, indoor and a Gran Fondo.

“I had fun out there, the trails and landscapes in this course were similar to what I grew up riding in New Zealand,” Samara said.

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“I had top-10 ambitions, so I am thrilled with a solid sixth place.

“I’m in the form of my life and the journey to date has been incredible.

“The places I’ve been, the people I’ve met and the challenges I’ve been through have been worth it.”

Wollongong Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery is representing the city at the UCI World Championships.

“We are incredibly proud of Samara and her achievement, and it was wonderful to watch one of our residents yet again shine on a world stage,” he said.

“With Samara and fellow UCI Bike City ambassador Josh Carlson, we have two world-class athletes who can not only talk the talk about Wollongong as a cycling destination but can also walk the walk at an international level.”

Samara’s preparation for the World Championships included weekends riding a lap of the Royal National Park one day, followed by another equally long ride the next day. She also racked up the miles at the award-winning Cringila Hills Mountain Bike Park.

Once she returns home to Wollongong, Samara will start preparing for her next major event in Dwellingup, Western Australia.

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“I’m excited that Australia will host the first Oceania Marathon Mountain Bike Championships in September,” she said.

“It’s great to see this cycling discipline continue to grow and more people enjoying it.”

Wollongong will celebrate the anniversary of its successful 2022 UCI Road World Championships with a two-day cycling festival on 23 and 24 September.

The Ride Wollongong Festival of Cycling will be held in Lang Park and along Marine Drive and Flagstaff Hill and will feature free community rides, competitive road cycling races and festival activities. There will also be a community expo, all-abilities exhibitors, local heroes, cycling-related workshops, food stalls and entertainment.

Cr Bradbery said the annual community ride would create a legacy around the 2022 race and Wollongong’s UCI Bike City status.

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