The 2018 Port to Port had a rejig for its 5th year, moving the start to Audrey Wilkinson winery in the Hunter Valley.
The rising sun with hot air balloons and a sky that went from purple to orange and then to clear blue greeted every rider as they arrived.
As the 8am start got closer, riders assembled for the start of the stage. The route would take us up the range, through plenty of singletrack, and back down again.
With a field of talent in all categories, the eyes were still cast forward to see how the front of the race would play out.
After a long and painfully slow neutral start, we found out. Michael Potter May have gone ‘full roadie’ but he lit it up on the long climb above Pokolbin. Only Tasman Nankervis crested with Potter on the first part of the climb. They had Michael Harris and Cam Ivory join them, with Russ Nankervis, Brendan Johnston and Callum Carson painfully close.
Riders entered the singletrack small groups. Holly Harris had climbed well and was riding into a strong race lead.
Now this singletrack is fun, but it’s different every year. In 2014 it was a quagmire but today it was dry and dusty. So dusty! The trails felt raw and demanded your focus as they climbed and plunged along the edge of the hill. There were enough steep sections that dismounting to walk up wasn’t uncommon – but I doubt that happened much up front.
These trails were mixed with fire trails, positions swapped and we reached our turnaround point.
We used a mix of trails, some barely there, some well established. It was a nice change from the bike park trails events often use and really made for a big mix of terrain.
Some people crashed, others loved the challenge. But the top riders were so close. With a return along some of the farm road used in the start, we then tackled a rocky red dirt double track descent, before a few sharp hills to the finish.
The race came down to the final corner, with Potter, Nankervis, Johnston and Ivory coming into the Audrey Wilkinson winery together. Ivory struck out, and won the race while also grabbing a few seconds over the others. Potter was 2nd, Nankervis was 3rd.
Holly Harris was losing time in the closing kilometres, with suspected rear wheel damage. It was just a broken spoke in the end, but she has about a 6 minute advantage on Jessica Simpson, with Kathryn McInerney a little further back.
What’s next at Port to Port?
So where does this leave the race? Cam Ivory reckons that there are enough quick guys here and the terrain is varied enough that anyone could have their day and shake things up. Stage 2 has another big climb to start so will we see Michael Potter stretching his legs early? Will Brendan Johnston wake up his big engine and take the lead? Or will Russ Nankervis and Callum Carson chase anything that moves to defend Cam’s lead?
In the Masters, Meaghan Stanton pulls on the Master’s 1Womens jersey, and Steffan Merriman is back into the Master’s 1 Mens jersey. Full results can be found online.
My ride at the Port to Port
There’s not much to write about save for a slow start and better finish! Today was a great reminder that the Port to Port has more climbing than most Australian events. And my legs noticed that pretty early on!
The trails we rode were fun, but looser than expected, and the punchy ups and downs really played a big role in elastic bands stretching (and snapping) once you move out of the top 10.
I tried to avoid that, and chipped away. I caught back to Holly, and even Liam Jeffries, who has had a break from racing and come back.
I played around with my bike a fair bit for this event, moving to 120mm Fox 34 SC fork, and Maxxis Rekon tyres run on a 30mm internal front rim and 30mm external rear rim. It was pretty fun!