Team Roadcraft Wins The Skins Alpine Epic

Postby Melissa_Theuriau on Mon 2/Mar/09 8:34am

Two of New Zealand’s elite cross-country mountain bike riders, Marcus Roy, of Invercargill, and Kashi Leuchs, of Dunedin, won the inaugural Skins Alpine Epic with a commanding performance in what has become New Zealand’s toughest adventure mountain bike race.

Played out over four days, five stages and 241km of backcountry between Mt Somers and Lake Tekapo, the South Canterbury event was dominated by Team RoadCraft’s Roy and Leuchs with the pair winning four out of the five stages in a time of 13:27.47.

Team RoadCraft finished 12 minutes 27 seconds ahead of their nearest rival, the Team Giant R&R Sport duo of Scott Wilder and Mark Williams. The final stage was won by Team Giant R&R Sport after a 74km-long battle with the riders of the third-placed Alpinexus team, Nic Smith and Neil Sutherland.

Sixty teams of two took on the challenge with riders from throughout New Zealand and international competitors from the UK, Czech Republic, Switzerland and America vying for the title.

In the end, Roy and Leuchs, both international cross-country mountain bike racing specialists, felt they adapted quickly to the longer and more gruelling race format of New Zealand’s first multi-day adventure mountain bike race.

“It feels great to win the inaugural event, but for me the highlight was the people who came along: the riders, the volunteers and the crew. We get to spend day after day with each other and get to know each other and it’s like a big family by the end,” three-time Olympian Leuchs said.

“I have a lot of new friends and have had an amazing experience from this event,” Leuchs added.

“I’ve never done team stage racing before,” Roy said.

“It’s quite a different dynamic and I wasn’t used to that. You couldn’t just sneak away from the other teams when you had a chance. You had to work as a team and it was a lot more obvious if you made a break. I found that challenge to be a lot of fun.”

“Camping out and meeting lots of different people was also a highlight for me,” he said.

With several high-country passes nearing 1500m in altitude the terrain was also a standout feature of this race, albeit mostly shrouded by alpine mist for all four days of the event.

“The isolation is the unique factor in this race. You had this feeling of remoteness with just a couple of sheep tracks as guidance and knowing full well that the only people to venture up here were the musterers and us,” Leuchs said.

“That, coupled with the misty, thick clouds made it quite spooky. You could race for an hour without seeing anyone and when you did see someone again you were pretty excited,” Leuchs said.

“The navigation side was exciting, too. We didn’t always know where to go next, so it was a challenge to make good decisions,” Roy said.

“We really wanted to win this race and we knew so many things could go wrong in a long race, so we didn’t want to risk anything. It’s a very tough race,” Leuchs said.

“You can’t bluff your way through a race like this – it’s four days and you have to be ready for each day,” Roy said.

“The riding was at times quite technical and tricky – it’s certainly not for beginners, but will appeal to those riders who want the ultimate challenge – just finishing it is a big accomplishiment,” Leuchs said.

The next event on the Team RoadCraft calendar is the 50km Motatapu Icebreaker starting at Glendhu Bay, Wanaka on March 14 and finishing in Arrowtown. This event will conclude the 2009 tour for Team RoadCraft.

Full Skins Alpine Epic Results:
Kashi Leuchs (second from right) and his Team RoadCraft team mate Marcus Roy (third from left) spray champagne over the second and third placed teams at the finishline of the 241km Skins Alpine Epic at Lake Tekapo. Photo credit:
On the final stage of the Skins Alpine Epic Mark Williams (left) of Team Giant R&R Sport is chased through a dry riverbed by Team RoadCraft Marcus Roy (middle) and Kashi Leuchs (right). Photo credit:
Team RoadCraft’s Kashi Leuchs (left) and Marcus Roy pick a trail alongside the Rangitata River on their way to winning the inaugural Skins Alpine Epic in a time of 13:27.47. Photo credit:
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