Sheppard & Pennington hustle to wins at Horning’s XC
NORTH PLAINS — Bend’s Chris Sheppard (Rocky Mountain Bicycles) made the most of his weekend trip west by taking the win at the Horning’s Hustle CX Sunday after finishing second at the Kings Valley Road Race the day before.
Sheppard and local favorites Erik Tonkin (Kona) and 2009 Cross Crusade winner Sean Babcock (Team S&M) rode away from the rest of elite field early in the first lap and had a comfortable margin by the time they reached the top of the course on the second lap.
As the trio plowed over the course, leaving wake of suffering behind, Sheppard started plotting his strategy for the win and looking for weaknesses.
“I would say that we traded off, but they did a lot of the pulling,” he said. “I ended up being a bit on the conservative side just to save my matches for the end. I attacked on the muddy hill climb sidehill where they had a little trouble on the first three laps. Then we hit traffic and the rest was history. I just stayed motivated and didn’t make mistakes.”
Sheppard’s acceleration snapped Babcock from the lead trio, but Tonkin matched the move and grabbed Sheppard’s wheel.
“When he attacked, honestly, I was surprised I could answer it,” Tonkin said. “He kept looking over his shoulder to see if I was there for so long. For so much time we were just throwing it down. In bumpy screwed up mud I think we’re both able to go just a little bit faster than most people. So it was really racing. It was sweet.”
Tonkin and Sheppard continued to battle into the singletrack, where Tonkin quite literally hit traffic.
“We were really racing bikes,” Tonkin said. “And then when we went into that singletrack most people were getting out of our way, but one guy didn’t get out of my way. He went and tried to climb it and I just went right into the back of him. And that was it. I think Chris would have got it anyway. I think he was stronger, so it’s kind of a mute point. But I didn’t want it to end like that.”
Tonkin settled for second, cruising in about 2:30 down on Sheppard, with Babcock crossing the line about a minute later for third. Ben Thompson (Trek Mountain Coop) was fourth. Evans Plews finished fifth.
After a day of racing around a fishpond, strutting peacocks and an R&B band with beer garden and BBQ, Sheppard soaked it all in and commented on the event.
“Mountain biking on a sunny day, I mean, what a score,” he said. “With Kings Valley yesterday, and then this. It’s got music and beer, and it’s really good to get my first win with Rocky Mountain Bicycles and Thule. I started racing with Rocky Mountain Bicycles back in 1989. So it’s great to end my career with somebody who started with me.”
Alice Pennington’s ability to fearlessly sail down hills overcame some penultimate-lap confusion Sunday, and she eventually cruised in for the win on the hilly, technical Horning’s course that traversed gravel, fire roads, trails and singletrack. Pennington (Team S&M) opened up an early lead on the competition, including Sue Butler (River City Bicycles), who trailed consistently about 30 seconds behind after the first lap, and Serena Bishop from Bend’s Sunnyside Sports.
“(Pennington) passed me on that first descent, and I was 30 seconds behind her the rest of the race,” Butler said. “I could see her, but I couldn’t catch her.”
Butler had her last chance when Pennington paused at the start/finish with a lap to go, mistakenly thinking the race was over. Butler went past — looking briefly confused to see Pennington stopped — and continued on with the final lap. Pennington was quickly in hot pursuit and had to catch Butler again on the last lap, where she dropped the bonking opponent and cruised in for the win. Butler, who finished third the day before in the women’s King Valley Road Race, said she ran out of steam on the last lap, but Pennington’s downhill prowess probably would have been the difference anyway.
“Even if I had fresh legs today and hadn’t raced yesterday, she probably still would have beaten me because she’s fearless on the downhills,” Butler said. “That switchback is kind of scary. I can do it, but I don’t do it as fast as she can.”
Butler held on for second place in front of Bishop. Team Dirt’s Melissa Norland crossed the line fourth, followed by Brooke McDermid (Bicycleattorney.com) fifth.
Sunday, April 11
1. Chris Sheppard (Rocky Mtn Bike) 4
2. Erik Tonkin (Team S & M) 4
3. Sean Babcock (Team S & M) 4
4. Ben Thompson (Trek Mtn Coop) 4
5. Evan Plews Evan (Plews/ Kenda) 4
Pro/Cat 1 Women*
1. Alice Pennington (Team S&M) 4
2. Sue Butler (River City Bicycles) 4
3. Serena Bishop (Sunnyside Sports) 3
4. Melissa Norland (Team Dirt) 3
5. Brooke McDermid (Bicycleattorney.com) 3
*Cat 1 women scored separately.
Check out Oregon Velo for more photos.