The longest and most difficult stage of the Port to Port is agreed by most to be stage 3. In years past this has been the stage where teams are able to create bigger time gaps to gain or solidify the race lead. This year was shaping up to be no different with close racing across the first 2 stages it was looking to be a duke out between the Tasmanian Devils, Giant- Shimano and Trek-Shimano for the overall leader’s jersey. However the start line brought some bad news but perhaps a sigh of relief for the elite men competition, member of the current race leaders team Ben Bradley had succumb to illness overnight and was unable to make the start. Meaning Giant-Shimano were leaders on the road/ trail.
Riders rolled out of the Cooranbong park and began racing on dirt roads, fire trails that took them to the now famous ‘Awaba MTB park’. The race then split up considerably as the riders tackled 10km of the flowy trails of Awaba. Flowing through rainforest vegetation up and over considerable man made structures these trails are a real highlight for many of the riders at Port to Port. However the smiles would not remain for too long as grimace overtook smirk when riders emerged from the singletrack to the base of Mt Faulk road. This dirt road climb is the decisive climb of the race and pushes riders up to over 500m elevation and subsequent beautiful vista’s across the southern Hunter Valley.
The race really began to take shape here as Giant-Shimano, Trek- Shimano, Nankervis Cup and the remaining member of Tassie Devils Alex Lack really lay down the power forcing a gap over the chasing teams. Jon Odams from Giant- Shimano said they were expecting the Nankervis brothers to really force the pace up this climb. Over the top of the climb the race continued on undulating dirt road for another 15-20km before hitting some more technical dirt bike trails. Once cresting the top of Mt Faulk in the lead group Odams and Johnston shared the work to create a gap over the competition. Tassie rider Alex Lack although no longer in contention for a result managed to hold their pace all the way to the line as they took the stage and subsequently the GC lead whilst the Nankervis brothers again just missing out on a win and Trek-Shimano losing touch in the final singletrack but held on for 3rd. We had a chat with Jon Odams about the days proceedings, check out the full interview on our facebook page.
Sam n Kate continued their dominance in the women’s competition finishing 15 minutes clear of Specialized-Shimano then a further 6 minutes to Trek-Shimano girls.
The mixed pairs category again proved to be an exciting contest for the minor placings. Team Merida-SRAM Aus continued to grow their insurmountable lead on the GC whilst behind Pushys-Shimano-Cannondale today rode to a very solid performance to put their 2nd place finish into the certain category barring mechanical or physical mishap on stage 4. There is now however 3 teams vying for the 3rd place overall. Bad luck unfortunately struck the ‘Dirt Shredders’ from New England as they succumbed to a broken rear derailleur 2/3 of the way through today’s stage. Meaning our very own MarathonMTB.com team have moved up to 3rd overall with just 4 seconds gap to Dekath Expresso in 4th then only 1.5 minutes to Pushy’s-Shimano in 5th.
Full results here.
Tomorrow is the shortest stage of the Port to Port with only 40km to cover but this stage is nearly 100% singletrack so riders with their bike handling skills on point will be rewarded. Exciting to finish on Newcastle’s famous Merewether beach where weary riders can enjoy a lie down and maybe a beer after a hard 4 days of competition.