Stage 3 of the Port to Port MTB Race is known for a hard but fun course. And with an update to the start it meant we would be racing sooner and not in a neutral escort on the road for as long.
And with everything on the line for the open men’s race and Masters 1, the racing was hot when the car pulled off.
The pace was on to get to the singletrack loop at Awaba, and it was lead out tempo in the front by Brendan Johnston.
Like in years past, the trails had been manicured for the race. You could see the rake marks!
Holly Harris sat in the top 30 carving smooth lines in the singletrack and punching up the small climbs. Up front, things were about to get harder.
On the main climb Michael Potter and Tasman Nankervis tore the race apart – only Brendan Johnston managed to stay with them.
“Trekky lead the singletrack through Awaba and set the tempo, and then Tas went straight to the front on the climb and basically didn’t go further back from that and just ripped it to shreds,” said stage winner Michael Potter after the race. “We went over the top with a 40 second gap and chopped off until the finish.”
The trio worked hard with Johnston and Nankervis keen to put time into race leader Cam Ivory, and Potter was hungry for a stage win. In the end although Potter got dropped in the final singletrack, he got back to Nankervis and Johnston, and was gifted the win. This puts Johnston in the lead with Nankervis in 2nd.
“It went to plan I guess,” said Johnston. “I just had to hang in with Tas and Potts for the long climb, and it was a struggle, it was really hard. Once you’re at the top it’s real quick to home, and we rode some of the descents really quickly.”
“The dynamic today was unusual as Tas and I had the same objective to get away from Cam. As much as Cam is a great mate and we like to ride trails with him today was the day where we had a chance to show down. It was a good day, and we just needed to put time into Cam. We didn’t want to gang up on him, it’s just the race situation and Tas an I really needed to put time into him,” said Johnston after the stage before being presented his leader’s jersey.
“I really loved today, although I struggled a lot when we hit the top of the climb,” said Holly Harris, after taking her third straight stage win. “The flat sections were hard but the singletrack… oh man! The first section was so smooth it’s as if someone had got a set of tweezers and pulled out the roots. It was flowy and we had a perfect train.”
Nankervis is now just 15 seconds behind Johnston with Ivory a further minute and 12 seconds back. This will be tight tomorrow! Holly Harris has about 22 minutes on Jessica Simpson who is a few minutes ahead of Sarah Tucknott. No result is written in stone until the final finish line is crossed, but that podium looks pretty set.
The Masters 1 men’s race was alive as well today, with Steffan Merriman unable to hold onto a storming Brad Clark, who now has a 1:13 lead coming into the final stage. This is close, Merriman may be able to claw that back but who can say.
My day at Port to Port
I really like this stage. And the start in Cooranbong was both drier and warmer than it’s been before, and the new start which got ride of a lot of the neutral roll out on the road suited me much better. I just hand out positions in those starts.
But when it was on across the farms it was on, even if the pace in Awaba was fun and friendly there was some go before we got there. It was a pleasure riding that in the wheels of Barlin, McDulling, and d’Ambrosio, along with Jeffries, Spaul and women’s leader Holly Harris. We had a great group and hit the climb in pretty good spirits!
It’s a big climb and it did hurt, and while we rolled turns ok soon enough a strong group caught us and the pace had to lift. Fast rolling clay roads were sandy, and power sapped out of my legs as we went on.
The final trails were dry, fun, and ridden pretty quickly, and when we were finally back in the valley a few of us grouped together for the run in. It was a killer stage, matched only by sharing war stories with Croc Trophy veteran Grant Webster on the grass afterwards.
I have often got into Awaba too far back and just ridden the stage as I could, but today I felt like I could race it, and save for a few mistakes I did about as well as I could have hoped – cheers to anyone I shared the trail with today, it was a cracker!