Stage 2 of the Port to Port MTB stage race was spoken highly of from competitors who raced a similar course in 2018, high expectations were justified as riders roared through the hard pack yet flowy singletrails of the Southern Hunter Valley. With narrow margins on the GC for the men’s pairs an exciting race was guaranteed from the beginning!
From the start line outside the West Wallsend Golf Club riders shortly came across a gnarly steep fire trail climb which really had only 1 line for riding. A subsequent bottle neck emerged for those at the latter end of the big first wave of riders. Whilst at the front the pair from Giant-Shimano Brendan Johnston and Jon Odams made their ambitions clear blasting off setting a frenetic pace that was held only by yesterdays stage winners The Tassie Devils, GC leaders Ward Bros and the unluckiest team from yesterday the Nankervis Cup. With jostling among this group of 8 on the gnarly singletrack that tested riders both physically and tactically it was always going to be an honest winner of the stage.
Unfortunately for yellow jersey wearers Kyle and Jayden Ward they succumbed to some of the bad luck which struck their competitors yesterday snapping a chain on one of the short steep climbs. They were able to repair however were never to re join the lead group. Leaving 3 teams duking it out for the win. The Giant Shimano team making amends for yesterday’s bad luck getting the stage win just seconds ahead of Nankervis Cup (2nd) and the Tassie Devils (3rd) who with their consistent efforts so far have leapt into the overall lead.
Giant Shimano now are within striking distance of overall in 2nd and Trek Shimano lost some time today but still hold on for 3rd overall.
In the women’s pairs it was a similar outcome for stage 2 as on stage 1 with the New Zealand duo of Sam n Kate taking another win ahead of the Specialized and Trek teams respectively. The exciting racing continues in the mixed pairs with SRAM Merida Aus taking another win however with a smaller margin today and only very small margins between 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th. 2nd place again went to the Canberra duo Pushy’s Shimano-Cannondale then the ‘Dirt Shredders’ from Armidale only a few seconds in arrears then only another few seconds back to our very own team MarathonMTB.com. Full results can be found here.
The exciting racing continues outside of the elite categories with many tussles among the masters divisions and open solo categories. We had a chat with former XCM Australian champion Andrew Blair who at this Port to Port has entered his first ever Masters race. He and team mate Matthew Rizzutto are currently leading the Masters men among some classy competition. “Racing Masters has given me a renewed motivation because I can still vie for a win” Blair commented. Check out the full interview on our Facebook page.
It has been interesting for myself to race this event in mixed pairs meaning riding at a different pace and managing your effort to support performance as a team rather than an individual. Riding at a different position in the field has opened my eyes to some of the challenges of track etiquette in larger fields of mixed abilities. Being among some the female racers who are vying for podium results in their respective categories and witnessing the sometimes obvious disrespect shown to them by male competitors who are vying for much lower positions on their results sheet can be disconcerting. Most riders pass with patience, grace and manners. However I saw numerous occasions where mid-pack male riders would refuse to let women pass them on singletrack or even worse constantly berate from behind on tighter sections of the trail as if their pursuit in masters was of much higher importance than the women in front who were actually setting a solid rhythm and were racing for the top step of the podium rather than sheep stations.
Most riders have the upmost respect on the trail but a good reminder for us all to check ourselves on the trail. After all, we are just riding bicycles it’s not worth getting worked up about a few seconds on a trail.
Singletrack passing will be less of an issue for all involved tomorrow as riders head up the massive Mount Faulk that has now become synonymous as the decisive ‘Queen Stage’ of the Port to Port. Can the Tassie and kiwi riders hold on to their lead or will there be another shake up..