The leaders set a hard and fast pace from the gun, motivated by the beautiful weather and singletrack.
"It was a crazy stage today," Johnston said. "it had everything: super fast downhills with the sand and the trees, and the same with the uphills it was good to make the moves today and consolidate the lead a bit.
"Anything can happen in this race."
Sheppard sounded like she was on holiday, not etching out a hard fought win.
"Super happy," the New Zealander said. "It was just really fun to get to know some of the competitors out there and enjoy it."
"Weather's perfect, the trails are lovely and the sand section was a lot easier this year but still kept you on your toes."
In the evening's Fat Crit in town, Cam Ivory and Johnston pushed each other from the start before Johnston again proved his dominance with the win. Peta Mullens was the favourite for victory in the women's crit, but Sheppard took the fight to her until the last lap.
Check out Flow Mountain Bike's full gallery from Stage 2 here.