They say stage 3 of the Port to Port Mountain Bike race is the Queen Stage (i.e. the hardest, most demanding and most prestigious stage of a stage race).
Yep… it was.
It was also reallly REALLY good fun and my faith in this race as a mountain bike race rather than a road race on mountain bikes has returned. I didn’t share my race report from yesterday widely because it was a little negative and I don’t like being too gloomy. You can read it here if you so desire. I wasn’t very complimentary on the course.
Today was awesome, starting with this little warm-up ride as the sun rose across the gorgeous Hunter Valley.
And cold. Despite a really thorough warm-up of 15 kays over 40 minutes, I was still shivering uncontrollably on the start line. Due to the numbers on this race (hundreds), you need to be sitting on the start line a good 20 minutes before start in order to get a reasonable position.
The first 5 kilometres was under control and, like Stage 1, the cycling adrenalin was pumping and there were plenty of wheel-touching and skidding moments along the way as people jostled to maintain their good position. One guy to my right ended up side-ways and skidding and I have no idea how on earth he managed to keep it upright – but he did. You can get a glimpse of me in the controlled bunch in this little vid which gives you an excellent picture of what today’s race was like.
Once the lead-car rolled away and the race was on, we popped almost immediately into the single-track of the Awaba Mountain Bike Park. This trail made up the first 12 kilometres of the 62 kilometre race and was an absolute pleasure to ride. Unfortunately it was a bit of a procession ride with no opportunity for passing. There were 505 racing today so that makes it pretty hard to get a clear track at the best of times for anyone apart from the first and last few riders. My effort therefore, over this first section of the race, was not what I would normally have applied but probably a good thing considering the climbing and group-riding to come.
There was about 1300 metres of vertical today (about the same yesterday) and the pace up the climb and along the ridge (both days) was high-load! It was interesting to end up with almost the identical group of riders today as yesterday; the climbs definitely place you into the correct racing position. We finished with some really nice (not blown-out) moto-single-track, some lovely rain-forest gullys and 3 kay sealed smash to home.
The race venue was beautiful (Cooranbong, NSW) and the racing itself was magnificent. I’d come back to do this stage any day.
I was really happy with how I felt considering it’s the third hard day of racing. Recovery has consisted of a leg-rub straight after the race, lots of food and drink straight up, then when we get back to our accommodation, a light roll on the bikes down to the beach and a wade in the sea-pool at Merewether. So far so good.
I feel like I shouldn’t even say that out loud but that is my goal.