After a day up and down the mountains of the Hunter Valley yesterday, riders would have no respite today with the longest stage of the race on the menu including a lap of the world class Awaba singletrack and an epic climb up to the slopes of Mount Faulk. Last night riders and spectators alike were treated to a 2.4km ‘shootout’ time trial. With cash and valuable GC time bonuses on offer this was a high stakes shred around the Hunter valley golf course. Young Tristan Ward from Torq-Merida managed to unseat race leader Brendan Johnston by 0.3 of a second to take the cash and claw back 15seconds from Johnston in the GC standings. Race leader in the women’s Em Viotto showed her all round versatility by taking the win the shootout and gain a little more time over Katheryn McInerny in the GC. However with a big day on the cards following would these results prove to be game changers? One thing is for certain, that the ‘shootout’ TT is a great idea for the race organisation. It has quickly become a talking point of this event, with plenty of spectators coming out to line the course and create some atmosphere and plenty of beverages even the odd sausage sandwich on offer at the start/finish area. A great idea that creates even more atmosphere around the event and for those competing.
On the start line this morning nerves were racing for many riders who were about to embark what was being described as a ‘bohemoth’ stage. A neutral roll out on the sealed road had many of the elite riders jockeying for position as at the end of the neutral it was more or less straight into the singletrack of the Awaba mountain bike park. The likely contenders proved their supremacy in the 12km single track loop with a lead group emerging containing Johnston, Standish, Tupalski, English, Jayden Ward and Tristan Ward. This group would duke it out over the arduous Mt Faulk dirt road climb and the following ‘Mad Dog’ descent. From here the bike handling skills were again to come into play in this race with some precarious motorbike trails followed by more fast single track and fire trail. The stage would conclude with a flat 3km of sealed road creating a finishing scenario not too dissimilar from a breakaway finish to a road race. Brendan Johnston again further proved his athleticism and the reason he is one of the most widely respected mountain biker’s Australia has ever seen. Johnston took the win with the younger powerhouse of Tristan Ward in 2nd showing he is a force to be reckoned with into the future. Mark Tupalski continued his comeback to the top of the sport with 3rd.
The real shakeup was occurring in the women’s race where Torq-Merida’s Kathryn McInerny from Holbrook, NSW put the hammer down on the long climb up Mount Faulk to distance herself from race leader Em Viotto. With only 90 seconds separating McInerny from the pink leaders jersey, she kept the power down the bring it home winning the stage and taking the lead overall. Viotto from Trek-Shimano now sits in 2nd overall. Sydney’s Briony Mattocks crossed the line in a dead heat with Jessica Simpson for 3rd place today. Full results can be found here.
The Port to Port wraps up tomorrow with a 40km stage along the Newcastle coastline including the very well regarded Glenrock MTB park. With a predominantly single track stage tomorrow, this race really has shown to reward the best overall riders in the field.