Wellington rider Samara Sheppard produced an outstanding performance to finish fourth in the under-23 elite crosscountry race at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in the Czech Republic overnight.
Sheppard started conservatively before powering home in fourth place, only 2min 27sec behind the winner, her fellow Wheeler IXS Pro teammate Jolanda Neff (SUI).
The performance lifted her to 11th overall in the World Cup standings after three rounds.
"It was a good day. Today I qualified for world champs at the Czech World Cup and my team mate Jolanda was first," Sheppard said.
The 22-year-old was in sixth after the starting loop of the testing course through the forests at Nove Mesto na Morave, which is the Czech nordic and biathlon centre.
Sheppard pushed up to fifth on the next lap but at mid race she was more than a minute off third place. She pushed hard to climb to fourth and close within 32 seconds of her first World Cup podium of the season.
Fellow kiwis Dirk Peters and Sam Shaw, both of Rotorua, finished 14th and 54th respectively in the under-23 men's race.
They both started conservatively and finished strongly in the packed field of 114 starters.
Peters was 40th after the starting loop and consistently fought his way through the cramped field for his 14th placing, 3min 26sec behind winner Ondrej Cink (CZE). Peters showed his real potential to record the sixth fastest lap time over the final loop of the five-lap race.
Shaw was back in 80th after his first lap and did well to pass 26 riders as he climbed his way through the field.
New Zealand's Karen Hanlen and Rosara Joseph compete in the elite women's race tomorrow. (Mon)
Rocky Roads Mountain Bike World cup, round 3, Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic:
Under-23 women: Jolanda Neff (SUI) 1:18.48, 1; Yana Belomoyna (UKR) at 1:01, 2; Paula Gorycka (POL) at 1:55, 3; Samara Sheppard (NZL) at 2:27, 4.
Under-23 men: Ondrej Cink (CZE) 1:19.58, 1; Michiel van der Heijden (NED) at 6s, 2; Alexander Gehbauer (AUT) at 50s, 3. Also: Dirk Peters (NZL) at 3:6, 14; Sam Shaw (NZL) at 9:07, 54.
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