Stage two of Port to Port was an all-new route for 2018, bringing new trails, a new start and finish and a whole lot of guesswork to how it would play out once the gun fired, especially considering how close the men’s GC is after Stage 1.
With the race starting at the Sugar Valley Golf Club, we would be heading straight up Mt Sugar Loaf, before descending into the trails at Killingworth. For any mountain biker of the late 90s, Killingworth is a known entity. From the downhill course to the twisty and rutted XC course, older riders have done their time in the forest here. Fast forward to 2018, and what would it hold?
The race rolled out under escort before the lead car pulled off and we hooked right into a firetrail. There was sand, braking, wobbles, and the expected (ok, by me) dirt road climb was actually a barely there double track with one rideable line and pinches of at least 25%!
This really sorted out the front, and had many riders off and walking. Tasman Nankervis lead with Brendan Johnston and Michael Potter behind, and Cam Ivory was with them but the front three ended up alone. For a little while anyway!
The road climb was savage, and we all turned left into a firetrail that was fast, and then hectic. There was a compulsory dismount and things still stayed pretty hairy, with some riders losing the battle of skill vs speed and never truly recovering their position.
“I watched the front guys ride away from me and I came over the climb with a 20 second gap but I knew I should be able to close that up with a little bit of local knowledge,” said race leader Cam Ivory after the stage.
The descent changed things as Jon Odams came back into the mix, and was leading for a period.
“I attacked in the singletrack thinking I could get away but I couldn’t shake anyone, there was six or seven of us together for the entire stage basically,” added Ivory.
Holly Harris was climbing like a scalded cat up the road, and descending with aplomb as well, putting more time into her rivals, especially with so many twists and turns in the singletrack.
“I think there were about 2 million corners today! I absolutely loved it today. There was an awesome atmosphere and everyone was so chilled, it was mint,” said Harris after crossing the finish line for the stage win. With Stage 3 bringing more climbs and more singletrack – Harris couldn’t be happier, “that’s what I live for!”.
The men’s race was close fought to the finish.
“We came into the final 2km still together and I hit out way too early, so I got caught by Trekky (Johnston) just before the line and Tas was buzzing my tyre. It was a close stage.” Johnston won the stage but Ivory kept the lead. Michael Potter got a flat so lost his position, but the Dirt Crit this afternoon offers substantial time bonuses so Ivory’s lead is anything but secure. That said, as XC Eliminator, XCO and XCM National Champion along with accolades on the road few would bet against Ivory to win tonight.
Not everyone had a great day and there were some crashes early on, including Kathryn McInerney who twisted her bars and lost a lot of time. Sarah Tucknott finished 2nd in the women’s race with Jessica Simpson in 3rd.
In the Masters races Brad Clark won M1, Stu Adams won M2, and John Pearce won M3. In the women’s Meaghan Stanton won M1 with Glenda Ryan winning M2 and Carolyn Jackson leading M3.
My day at Port to Port
Slow, cautious, then ok. But as more than a four word summary I crept on the climb and just kept it together on the descent, quickly dropping off some riders and stopping to check on a couple of people who crashed.
From then, it was corners, as Holly Harris said. There were flat corners, corners with ruts, sandy corners, uphill corners, downhill corners, bermed corners, corners with rocks, corners with branches, corners with cameras, corners with video people and gravel corners. Sometimes they were a mix of three of those things!
In all it really rewarded concentration, and the final 15km had a lot of flat corners and if you dropped your concentration it would be easy to come unstuck. But like Holly Harris also said – it was a whole lot of fun!
Looking ahead at Port to Port
And now we look at Stage 3. A new start from Cooranbong will take us off the long neutral road start (yay!) before sending us into Awaba’s singletrack network. This can be quite a blockage beyond the top 50 riders so let’s see how the farm trails beforehand open it up. After that we’ll hit a big climb into the Watagans, which is where Port to Port really lets talented climbers shine. Will Michael Potter go clear for a stage win? Can Ivory cover everything? Will Tasman Nankervis shed his few seconds and take the lead? Can anyone in Open Women take the race to Holly Harris? Can I shut down the 4 minute gap to Chris Panozzo?
It’s all to play for on stage 3 which is not just the longest stage of Port to Port, but also a personal favourite. Stay tuned!