LAUNCESTON mountain bike couple Ben Mather and Rowena Fry said the best feeling about claiming their respective titles in Wildside yesterday was doing so together.
A year after getting engaged at the end of their Blue Dragon mountain bike ride, the pair celebrated contrasting conclusions to the elite male and female categories of another major Tasmanian race.
Fry finished just behind West Australian Jo Bennett in the final Hells Gate stage at Strahan, but a comfortable overnight lead was enough to secure overall victory by nearly three minutes.
Mather faced a deficit of more than a minute on Canberra young gun Mark Tupalski but swept up the beach to steal a victory of just eight seconds after 5 1/2 hours riding over four days across the North-West, with Hobart Olympian Sid Taberlay third.
The Launceston duo, both riding the event for the fourth time, may have varied long-term goals but were delighted to share their success.
``It's my second win here but is pretty special because Ben managed to win as well,'' said Fry, 31.
``To win together exceeded all our expectations so to be able to share that is amazing.''
Mather, 32, decided he had one hope of securing his maiden Wildside crown having finished second in 2008.
``I was down a bit and thought there's no use pedalling for second so had nothing to lose,'' he said.
``I had a plan to try and get a break before we got onto the beach because I thought I could time trial reasonably well so I attacked along the road and once you're on the beach it's every man for himself.
``With the tail wind it was a bit of a drag race to the end and when I crossed the line I started my stopwatch and waited. Mark was just coming through the bush when it ticked over the margin so I thought I'd won and was pretty happy.
``It's the first major event Row and I have won together so is really special for us.''
Fry said the victory was never comfortable with Bennett and Jenni King on her tail but sets her up nicely for a shot at this year's Commonwealth Games.
``This is the best racing I've done in years. It's super competition and exactly what I needed leading into the national cross-country series which begins in March.''
With the national and Oceania championships and two world cups also coming up, Australia should name three female elite riders for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow with Fry vying for spots behind pace-setter Bec Henderson.
``I'd just be rapt to make that after the health issues I've had. To be able to represent my country would be a dream come true especially with an Olympics further down the track.''