Saturday, August 1, 2009

Oregon riders sweep Canada's Intermontane Challenge MTB race

Butler and Sheppard in their leaders' jerseys.

Portland's Sue Butler and Bend resident Chris Sheppard (Santa Cruz-WTB) rode away with the top titles at the five-day Intermontane Challenge in Kamloops, B.C., this week.

With $10,000 on the line for the pro men and women, the first-year event drew a pretty talented field. Butler's Monavie-Cannondale squad brought a full contingent, including Jeremiah Bishop, Tinker Juarez, Benjamin Sonntag and Brandon Cross.

Salem's Evan Plews (Domenic’s Marine Ltd) joined Sheppard -- who is originally from Kamloops -- in the men's race, while Lynn Bessette (Thule Team) and Amanda Carey (Kenda-Tomac-Hayes) joined Butler and the others in the women's field.

Each stage started and finished in town and used courses designed to show-off the many miles of singletrack surrounding the town. But the race ran into significant trouble on stage 3 when a local crank threatened to stay up all night removing course markers from "his" trail. A course change followed the next morning, and much confusion for lost riders and officials ensued. By the end of the day, promoters decided to nullify the stage results. Unfortunately the news came too late for Monavie-Cannondale's Bishop, who crashed while leading the race and cracked two vertebrae.

Sheppard, who suffered a broken chain and finished fourth on day one, rode his way back into the lead and stayed there for the rest of the race. Sonntag crashed hard and suffered a concussion on day four after getting a stick in his front wheel.

Butler led the women's race from beginning to end, with Carey battling for the lead each day.

"It was a HOT week of racing, and this first-year event has a ton of potential," Butler said via e-mail. "A lot of room for improvement, but the cash incentive was enough to get some really good competition."

Visit Sue Butler's blog HERE.