That was like nothing else I’ve ever done before.
Stage one of the Port to Port mountain bike stage race was a 35 kilometre jaunt through the bush adjacent to Port Nelson, just north of Newcastle in New South Wales. Some steep pinchy climbs, high speeds, heaps of riders and sand. Deep sand. And that was all after the completely mad start with what they say is 700 competitors.
The race rolled out of Port Nelson marina and along the bitumen under control for about three kay. It was reminiscent – for me – of Melbourne to Warrnambool races where the controlled start of 200 riders was just a massive fight for position. This race wasn’t much different and you wanted a good spot by the time the lead car rolled off at Shoal Bay and the race went BOOM. Not far after the BOOM, we hit the semi-single track where the seeding certainly still wasn’t set. Lots of shuffling, elbows and red-lining.
For the first half of the race, I felt like I was in a road race. I was part of a bunch of fast riders along some road through Fingal Bay and then some fairly wide sections of gravel. I knew I was pushing hard and the temptation to either stay with the group or chase down gaps was far too great for me and easily out-weighed any sensible decision to back off to any lower than super-threshold level. I still believe it was worth it as it established a very good position for me and I couldn’t have been happier with how the first half unfolded.
Soon after all the madness, the sand and climbs started to smack me in the face every couple of minute… actually, every thirty seconds or so. There were many wobbly moments in deep sand either for me or those around me and it presented a whole new element of mountain bike racing for me. This is why it’s so bloody interesting this sport!
The remainder of the race I stayed at a high level of intensity, knowing it was a short race, and I was confident I was going pretty well. As it turned out I was, albeit I still can’t believe I was back at 69th overall – but out of 700 with a ship-load of pros, that’s not too bad.
I managed 3rd position in my category of 50+ and am pretty happy with that. My time was 1:26:07 and I’m only a minute and a half behind 2nd and three and a bit minutes behind 1st. Knowing my strength is not short and steep, I’m hoping the long hard stages of the next two days allow me to drag back some time on these two… and stay away from 4th.
And one little tip; if you’re going to upgrade to a bigger ring on the rear cassette, deal with the bloody ‘B’ screw or risk numerous chain drops on important climbs… ‘you idiot’ (I say to myself). If only I had the #cycleworks boys here.
The following three photos are by the Flow boys. Check out their full album – awesome shots of a great little race stage.