Featured image thanks to Flow and Port to Port
Stage 3 of the 2016 Port to Port rolled out under drizzly skies, as the wall of dark cloud that greeted riders as they drove to Cooranbong turned to rain for about 10 minutes either side of the start. It was never heavy, and it wasn’t short lived – and as the race rolled out behind the lead car in an extended neutral section towards Awaba MTB Park riders peeled layers off – some even dropped them in the bunch! But the day dawned clear, dry, warmer than yesterday but still a little windy.
After numerous surges, falters, skids and tyre buzzes, the car swung off and the race got underway on the road into the trail head. Let it be said that mountain bike neutral starts in Australia should probably be 5-10km/h faster. With 64km ahead of us Stage 3 would be the longest stage of the race – and for many the most anticipated.
With the dirt road dip to the start of the trail head, things didn’t quite thin out as much as would be ideal, and there was a little bit of congestion, but in general a very good mood as we all entered a long loop of singletrack at Awaba.
The word from Port to Port
Stage three of the Port to Port MTB is known as the “Queen Stage” including the most amount of rewarding single track, always proving to shake up the results. Resembling yesterday’s stage the elites were anxious for the start with Paul Van Der Ploeg launching a screamer down the road closely tailed by Ward brothers, Kyle and Jayden.
Small splits developed through the superb single track of Awaba Mountain Bike Park before riders tackled the 5km ascent of Mount Faulk. Reece Tucknott showed his climbing form from yesterday was still around forming a group of three with Kyle Ward and Tristan Ward ahead of the chasing bunch. The trio stuck together over the rolling hills until the critical 25km-to-go mark, where the sandy moto single track proved to be the decisive moment of the race. Over the closing kilometers significant gaps had formed which saw Kyle Ward cross the finish line in a dominate fashion followed two minutes later by Tristan Ward and a further three minutes later by Reece Tucknott.
In the elite women’s field when riders exited the Awaba single track at the 20km mark, Samara Sheppard maintained a sizable lead on the other female riders. Jenni King and Emily Parkes were the next to emerge from the forest, who settled into a steady pace chasing Sheppard over the next 15kms of rolling fire road. Unfortunately, King retired due to illness leaving Parkes to hold off a hard charging Imogen Smith who began her ascent of Mount Faulk in fourth place.
Following the competitive racing line honors were awarded to Samara Sheppard for the third stage in a row. Emily Parkes, in a great show of sportsmanship, passed her credited stage win onto Sheppard who gained a one-minute time advantage. Imogen Smith rode hard all day through the demanding course to ensure her second place in GC was maintained with a third place on stage.
Stefan Merriman continued his winning streak in the master’s male category closely followed by Stu Adams and Torq Merida rider Mark Fenner. The master’s women category was today won by Sam Stevens with Su Pretto and Kristen Gardner in close tow.
Timing and directions on Stage 3
A few people took some wrong turns, and for most timing has been adjusted. But, the majority went the right way – however the Port to Port crew have done a commendable job making sure everyone is happy.
“The Port to Port MTB would like to apologise for any problems you may have experienced in Stage 3 today that contributed to the course being longer, or shorter than it should have been. This in turn may have affected your race time and position.
In the spirit of the Port to Port MTB and Cape to Cape MTB we want everyone to not only finish, but to come away with an awesome ride experience. Part of that ride experinece is how things are dealt with if things go wrong.
We have examined all of the evidence we possibly could. The results we have come up with and published are the best outcome from an unforseen and difficult situation.
Thank you to everyone for your patience and understanding in the matter.”