Canberra rider Shaun Lewis has ensured that five-time 24 Hour World Champion Jason English won’t make a clean sweep of the Evocities Mountain Bike Series after upstaging his rival in Bathurst yesterday.
English had flexed his muscle during the first two rounds in Western Sydney and Orange, but with a reduction in distance for round three, Lewis was more suited to the Bathurst race than the previous events.
After building an early lead, he steadily increased his advantage over the four hours of racing, and on his ninth lap he crossed the line five minutes and 14 seconds ahead of English.
Callum McNamara gave a good account of himself in the latter stages of the race to go past Andrew Lloyd and finish third, 2.14 behind English and 25 seconds ahead of Lloyd.
“I’m pretty happy with that, these races can be a bit hit or miss,” Lewis said.
“I was quite aggressive on the descents and that’s where I was able to make a lot of my time up.
“I wasn’t actually intending on competing here initially, but I’ve got a niggling knee injury and can only do one race at a time and then have to spend a few days getting over it.
“There was a four-day race that I had planned on doing but my knee would have prevented it, so I raced here instead. I’m pretty glad I did now.”
Lewis got away from English early and built a 43-second advantage at the end of the first lap, but the series leader wasn’t about to let him get away and he began to find his groove quickly enough, cutting the margin back to half a minute after two laps.
It was down to 21 seconds after three laps, but that was when Lewis went into overdrive and swiftly took the margin back out beyond a minute.
He continued to press hard and an out-of-sorts English couldn’t match him, paying the price for an illness he had picked up in the preceding 24 hours.
Lewis also got some help from a local group competing in the team’s event which allowed him to pace himself nicely.
“The Al Dente team was going well and I spent quite a lot of time riding with them and trying to stay with them, it gave me plenty of motivation to keep my pace up,” he said.
“The track was really impressive and I was loving it out there.
“I think the four-hour mark is about where there’s a bit of a turning point between myself and Jason, he’s better over the longer races and I’m more of a shorter race specialist, this is somewhere in the middle.
“I was trying to be really aggressive on the descents early on to give myself a bit of a buffer and ensure that I could do the climbs at my own pace to some degree.”
English lamented a virus he picked up on Saturday, but paid due credit to the winner.
“I was very crook last night, one of the things I love about racing is being able to carbo-load the day before, but I got to dinner time last night and couldn’t stomach anything,” he explained. “I contemplated going to the hospital and trying to get a drip just to get hydrated and this morning I was feeling in a pretty similar state.
“To be able to get second ... I’m still stoked with that. I think I would have gone a lot closer if I was feeling good but I wouldn’t have been able to bridge the gap to Shaun.”