The 4th edition of the Port to Port MTB stage race got underway today in the beautiful NSW coastal town of Nelson Bay. In previous years racers have been greeted with angry/ stormy skies but today the sun beamed down upon those gracing the start line. With a great introduction opening ceremony including words from the Port Stephens mayor and local indigenous elders welcoming the riders who have this year travelled from 7 different countries to be at this event.
A short 34km stage to begin on paper appeared to be fairly straight forward. However, the terrain was to challenge those who were anticipating a cruisy pedal along the coastline. Straight from the finish of neutral the race was sent up the first of the now infamous “3 bears” climbs, this proved effective in selecting the riders into ability appropriate groups. Some fast, loose, rocky descents followed then long portions of sand were to challenge the riders on the terrain that appeared flat on the race profile. Those with a lot of power to push through the sand were rewarded today. The strongest of whom was 3 time XCM champion Brendan Johnston whom was pushed right to the line by the young Ryan Standish from Alice Springs. In 3rd was the evergreen Rohin Adams followed by Mark Tupalski and Jayden Ward whom is hot on the comeback trail after a sabbatical from the sport.
In the women’s race it was Em Viotto who would complete a successful day for Trek- Shimano racing team by taking the win to join team mate Brendan Johnston in wearing the leaders jersey going into day 2. Kathryn McInerny and Jessica Simpson had a sprint finish for 2nd with Simpson taking the gallop. Full results can be found here.
The short stage multi day race is proving to become a popular format for mountain bike racing these days. The appeal is evident with some good, hard racing in the morning followed by plenty of down time in the afternoon to explore the usually very scenic surrounds. The Port to Port has established a superbly organised event with plenty of the aforementioned time for family/ social activities. Us here on Team Subaru-marathonMTB indulged in some quality post race feeding and beverage consumption in the beautiful Shoal Bay township. Racing can be very hard yakka and there are plenty of stage races on the calendar that will leave you completely and utterly exhausted upon crossing the finish line. Subsequently it is rare to see many smiles at the finish line of these races. The long, hard stage race definitely has it’s place and is worthwhile and is the beating heart heritage of the sport. This new style of shorter, less demanding racing is exciting to see develop. A lot of time for socialising and plenty of chirpy, happy faces at the race village with plenty of time for a yarn and/or quality park up!
Tomorrow the race turns to the vineyards of the Hunter Valley and a 50km stage followed by a 2.4km ‘shootout’ Time Trial for the top 20 elite men and women. Some more exciting racing ahead in this beautiful corner of Australia.