Samara Sheppard has finished 9th in the women’s cross country event at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. England enjoyed a 1-2 at the top of the standings, with Annie Last taking the win, 48 seconds clear of Evie Richards, while Canada’s Haley Smith completed the podium.
The 27.6km course that comprised the women’s cross country MTB race was technical in nature, with a few challenging uphill sections for good measure. Going into the race Samara Sheppard had reason to be hopeful, having won on this course in an Australian National Series event earlier in the year.
After starting from the front row of the field, Samara Sheppard slotted into sixth place as Annie Last of England set out with a strong early tempo. Evie Richards and Scotland’s Isla Short followed through the early technical sections of the course. Approaching the 3km mark the race began to stretch a bit and the English duo pulled away from third placed Short. Behind Short the Canadian duo of Haley Smith and Emily Batty occupied fourth and fifth positions, while Sheppard remained in sixth place.
The theme of the race had been set though and the English pair proceeded to dominate the race. Richards and Last stayed together through the first lap or two, but from there Last began to pull away, never to see her compatriot again until the finish line. Back in the battle for the podium places, while silver was assured for Richards, the bronze medal was more of a battle; with the Canadian pair of Haley Smith and Emily Batty snapping at the heals of Isla Short.
Steadily the Canadians caught and passed the Scot, and from there the two shared the lead, until Smith put distance into Batty and pulled away. Back down the field though Sheppard lost a couple of places, eventually finding herself in a battle for 8th place with Namibia’s Michelle Vorster.
Last was dominant though, charging through the laps and technical sections virtually without fault, and crossing the finish line in 1 hour 18 minutes 2 seconds. 48 seconds later Evie Richards crossed the line and celebrated with her compatriot, while Haley Smith held off Batty and won the final place on the podium at 2.24mins behind Last.
In a close fought battle, Michelle Vorster just got the better of Samara Sheppard for 8th place.