Stage three of Reef to Reef and we’re back. After all the challenges of the last fortnight or so (so sick!), Mike and I finally woke up feeling good. And excited. And not sick!
Today was the Queen Stage of the event, with a 65-ish kilometre out-and-back course with a loop of singletrack at the turnaround point. This stage was otherwise flat, fast, and fire-roady. We rolled out at eight with the teams start and within 30 seconds forgot we’d decided to ‘just ride tempo today’ and took off in pursuit of a bunch to hang onto. We arrived in an awesome group of mixed, masters, and female pairs and the fun started.
We all rode pretty much together for a while, off the fire road and into more rutted trails which, with the sun shining in our eyes and plenty of dust, proved somewhat treacherous. Before too long, though, we were dipping in and out of rainforest gullies and finally through a bizarre section of pine forest trail reminiscent of Canberra riding. I’ve recently installed double remote lockout on my Fox suspension and this was just an amazing benefit today (keep an eye out for a bike check soon, as this is what I’ll be racing at Worlds in Lenzerheide). I must have hit the button to lock or unlock 100 times in under three hours. Every time I thought I’d probably done enough exuberant threshold riding and it was probably time to return to the plan to ‘just ride tempo today’ something would happen – the group would split, or people would sit up, and we’d be together again, and that’s how we arrived at the singletrack loop in pretty good time, still with an amazing group of athletes.
The singletrack took in dry moto trails scratched into the bush, dipping in and out of gullies and ducking left and right around huge fallen logs and wet-season bog holes. Finally racing! Finally, finally, finally able to push the pedals with a bit of conviction! The wind in our hair and our hands on the bars! The camaraderie! The ground! I stuffed up a rooty section and a poor individual rider, assuming I’d be able to clear a bit of wood an inch high, ran into the back of me and landed us in a comical piggyback position with my face very close to the dirt. Thus squished and a little chastised, I decided it might be time to sit up and ‘just ride tempo’ for the rest of the day.
I failed to communicate this to Mike, however, and our teamwork dissolved into a series of shouty exchanges that lasted pretty much until we reached the finish line (sorry Mike). Conflict aside, it was really nice see the race between the top three mixed teams unfold right around us (we made sure we cleared out of the way!), and especially nice to ride a bit easier after our first bit of intensity for a fortnight. (I wish every race could be like this – feeling tired? Just ride easier!) We could enjoy the perfect weather, the views of endless jungled mountains where surely no human foot has ever trod, the peaceful paddocks around Wetherby Station… That’s where we’ll return tomorrow for the last stage, a final 50-kilometre loop with the highly anticipated grand finale – a trip down the Bump Track and onto Port Douglas’s fine 4 Mile Beach.
Up the front at Reef to Reef
Today’s race was won in breakneck speed by masters team of Rohin Adams and Brad Clarke, who rode with men’s team winners Brendon Johnston and Jon Odams all day.
Anna Beck and Briony Mattocks won the women’s team event and Samara Sheppard and Kyle Ward the mixed. Matt Bazzano and Kevin Nichols still lead in the Grand Masters. In the individual racing, Sarah White won the individual women’s, and Nathan Sandford still leads the individual men’s event. Full results are available online.