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Samurais endure one of hardest races yet

Technical climbs take their toll on field of riders

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Burch was about three minutes back of Grant in the River Runs Through It section, but bonked on the climb up the Flank Trail. That left fourth place wide open to a very calm and relatively clean Matt Bodkin.

"I was hoping for third, but I’m really happy with my ride. My goal was to keep up with Ozzie Matt (Ryan), and I kept pace through Comfortably Numb but when I stopped at the barbecue he got away from me. That was a mistake, because I rode alone after that until Matt Bodkin passed me on Whip Me Snip Me – then it all went to shit," said Burch, who finished fifth.

"I faded a little. Everybody has their low points in a race like this, but mine hit me on a key climb near the end of the race.

"I wish we could have an all downhill Samurai."

For Bodkin, everything went according to plan. "My plan from the start was to ride really hard on the first climb, then sit back and ride within myself. The course was really good – it was a lot of climbing but the (course) conditions were perfect," he said.

Bodkin’s favourite part was Comfortably Numb, where he hit a good rhythm and made up some time on the lead pack. "I’d never ridden that trail in that direction, and it was kind of fun. The rock faces were all ride-able, and you had to walk up some sections, but after the helicopter pad it was mostly downhill. You still had to be on top of things because of all the roots, but it was a really fun, kind of technical ride."

In the women’s race it was a close contest. Nikki Kassel had the lead for the first part of the race, but was passed by Joanna Harrington and Lesley Clements in a technical section after Comfortably Numb.

Clements kept the heat on Harrington, and was just seconds behind when they got to the descent on Danimal where Harrington, a strong technical rider, at last pulled ahead.

"I’m pretty sore," she said. "It’s really hard to race something like that, for that long, and stay in front when you have someone coming right up behind you.

"Comfortably Numb wasn’t too bad, there was a lot of hiking, and that route through Cut Yer Bars was pretty hard. By the time I got to Danimal I knew I was close to the finish, and I knew (Lesley) wasn’t going to catch me once I got to the top of the last climb in there."