With the shortest yet fastest stage ahead of me I knew this was going to be a tough one. I lined up at the front with the rest of the elite riders hoping to make an impact on the race. As the normal welcomes and ceremonial procedure finished the race was ushered out the park and along the road where the race would really start.
The normal mayhem of riders to eager to get into the first section of trail unfolded. Straight away I positioned myself in the top 15 riders making sure that I would still be I contact after the first climb. Cresting the top of the climb we descended down pushing the pace to rejoin with the front riders that had stretched ahead.
Weaving in and out of fire roads and on and off streets the lead pack started to grow in size. We made our way along the sandy trails to the 3 bear’s climbs. I started to find my lack I technical riding ability causing me to lose contact with the leading 7 riders.
The next few klms were open and fast and as I rode my own tempo I could see the lead group ahead and a smaller chase group behind. Soon enough the group behind consisting of Jason English and Jay Vine had caught myself as we were in the closing kilometers of the first stage. There was a small amount of single track only a couple of minutes before the finish and I knew that if I wanted to finish in the top ten I would have to enter that section first. So I did just that. I crossed the line in 7th putting myself in a pretty good position for the coming stages.
Today’s stage was from Audrey Wilkinson Wines to Briar Ridge Vineyard consisting of 50km of varied terrain including fire road single track and also sealed roads. The controlled start left the Wilkinson winery and headed straight into the first of many climbs for the day. Immediately the field was split with only about 10 of the top elite male riders making the selection. From there we headed up possibly the longest climb of the whole event towards the Pokolbin state forest. Attacks were going left right and center and I tried to stay calm and ride at my own pace slowly climbing back up to the main group each time. Brendan Johnston put in a strong attack and managed to get a small 30 lead ahead of the chase group that I was in. The front pack slowly got smaller and smaller as we ventured further into the state forest.
Mid way through the stage the pressure was on and we entered some technical single-track. I was one of the last riders in the group and was quickly losing contact as there technical skills on the MTB were much better than that of mine. Coming out of the single-track and making our way down the Infamous ‘Rabbit Hole decent” I could see fellow rider Jason English not far ahead so I pushed my pace to make contact before we reached the bottom.
Coming off the dirt and onto the sealed road I swapped turns with Jason and we were making great time on the leading group of 4.
We both worked well together and rode a strong tempo right towards the finish trying to make up valuable time on the leaders. I was happy to finish the stage in 5th only a couple minutes behind the stage winner Brendan Johnston. Now on to tomorrow’s stage in my backyard.
Today 62km stage from Cooranbong Park is always a tough stage.
We rolled out in neutral conditions as we headed from town to the well know Awaba MTB Park to get the stage underway. As we turn into the access road the flag drops and the speed increases. Tussling for positions I used my local knowledge to my advantage and attack just before the entry to the park making sure that I got a good position for the single-track ahead.
We all made our way around the flowing trails of the MTB Park and with a few small gaps forming ahead. I stayed calm and kept my cool knowing that there was one big climb and a lot of open fire trail at the top that could prove costly if you use too much energy early on.
I stuck to my plan and rode tempo up the MT Faulk road climb until we hit the Fast flowing sections of fire road along the top if the State forest. Soon enough we could see the lead group and chased to make sure that we would be back in the front end of the race.
As we made our way back on to the group nutrition was key making sure that I had enough energy to keep me going to the end. After about 20km of riding in a group across the top of the forest we made our way into some more single track. Unfortunately because I don’t always ride my MTB I don’t have the skill of the elite riders and started to loos contact with them again. I chase hard every time we got to a fire road bit it was too little too late. As the worked as a group they managed to keep putting time into me. With a few wrong turns I was starting to make my way down the final single track decent and along to the finish line. I was spent, I don’t normally race for 3 hours so I was a big shock to the system that’s for sure. I crossed the line in 8th about 5 minutes of the winner’s time but it was a good day of training that’s for sure.
Finally stage tomorrow, beach, Glenrock and plenty of new single-track!
The final day. No more having to worry about riding again tomorrow.
It was a short 40km today and it was going to be on from the start. The first section was open and fast the some single tracks and into Glenrock to finish it all off before pooping out at Dixon park beach for the finish.
As we rolled out the whole field was split into two so that there was not as many people all trying to hit the single track at once. My plan was to go on the attack early and try and put myself in a good spot before any real splits occurred. As soon as we hit the golf course I attacked with one other Torq rider managing to get a small gap but soon being swallowed by the large chasing pack. I didn’t go to the back of the group and stayed tentative up the front still pushing the pace to make sure that no one could get back onto the already formed group. Crossing some fire roads and normal residential roads we were on the Fernleigh Track Bike Path. A few riders had attacked and I saw it as a good opportunity to try and get a little gap on the field. No one wanted to chase up except for a masters rider that had no real effect on the race. Everyone just sat on him as they tried his hardest to bring in our leading trio. Out of luck I just happened to be off the front when we entered the first section of single track. This was great I could ride at my pace and everyone had to just follow me. The group did start to split however but I was leading so I managed to stay in the front group as we made our way up the following climb. The led changed and I sat in 4th wheel behind last year’s overall winner Tristan Ward. The next 10km were filled with plenty of single track and short sharp climbs. I started to loose contact with the lead group as were crested a hill into the residential street section of the stage. I caught a glimpse of them and managed to do a quick effort and get back on the group again.
From here we headed onto the beach where it was tough going. I had a good run at the start and then hit a few soft patched and got swamped by dome waves losing all my speed. As we got off the beach the whole group was split and it was everyone for themselves.
I managed to get onto Tristan Ward and Rowan Adam for the next few KMs through Glenrock until there Superior Handling skill on the MTB became too much for me to keep up with. I came out of the bush and started to try and close any gap on the road section towards the finish but it was too little too late and I had to settle for 7th on the stage and 6th overall in the elite men category.
It was a tough few day but I enjoyed every minute of it. Thanks Port To Port MTB for having me come and race my local trails with you all and I hope to see you all next year.
Images from Flow MTB