My immediate thoughts about the Port to Port MTB is that it’s going to grow to be something big. For those of you that know of, or have competed in the Cape to Cape in Western Australia, you would definitely understand the possibilities for an event like Port to Port MTB, and its right here in our backyard.
Throughout the years there have been many organisers try and piece together a mountain bike stage race but very few have succeeded to the degree of Cape to Cape, which has grown every year of its 7 year history to boast over 1300 entrants in 2014. With the same organisers behind Port to Port, their key ingredients are definitely proving to be a winning formula. Perhaps their greatest asset is that the event is designed with everyone in mind. Usually an objective such as keeping everybody happy would be considered professional sabotage but the event team have definitely made each of the 4 days achievable for the beginner right through to the elite cyclist, something that Drift believes in 100%, it is our mantra after all! The balance is struck between keeping distances achievable but including significant challenges within those distances, wether it be the sandy terrain in stage 1 or the 14 kilometre climb out of the blocks on day 2. Every day has a distance that is conquerable but a challenge within. That said, the greater challenge and the true lasting effect of this event is conquering all four days in succession, a feeling that cannot be described, but one that is more so earnt.
This year had two significant improvements over the inaugural event in 2014. Firstly and in respect to Stage 4 was the significant commitment to looking out for the safety of pedestrians with the neutral zone through Belmont Swansea along with keeping the tyres on dirt as much as possible by diverting the course through the Redhead and Whitebridge trails as opposed to the Fernleigh. By far the best addition to 2015 however was a completely new Stage 3! This year Stage 3 saw the utilisation of the Awaba mountain bike park and the adjoining Wattagan National Park to form a 65km loop out of Cooranbong. These changes were celebrated by many riders with the likes of Jenny Blair, winner of both the 2014 and 2015 P2P MTB Jenny made mention in her podium speech to the crowd on Day 4, that the changes to this years event had made it a true mountain bikers race. I’ll second that!
Whilst all events have their organisational challenges, there was little anyone could do to prepare for the storms that hit Newcastle a month out from the event. It is here that our local network of riders especially those within the Glenrock Trail Alliance and the Hunter Mountain Bike Association banded together to make sure trails were re opened in record time allowing the event to proceed as planned.
Despite a significant amount of rain in the lead up to the event the first 3 stages were all run in near perfect conditions, with Awaba shining at its best for Stage 3. The overnight rain however set a different scene for Stage 4 with a cold and wet start line greeting the riders on the final day and the rainfall turning an already soggy course into a slip and slide with riders losing everything from their traction right through to their brake pads!
Our involvement was very similar to last year’s event with respect to providing the onsite technical support for the first 3 stages. In addition to last year the event organisers have selected Drift Bikes own Josh Stephenson to produce the documentary for the event that will be aired on SBS 1 in early August before being launched globally to 165 countries, yeah Josh! We will be sure to send out the reminder as we draw closer to the launch and hope that many of you make the cut! From what I have seen so far, the footage Josh and the team have collected across the 4 days is nothing short of spectacular with everything from on bike cameras right through to aerial shots.
On the tech support side of things our boys Brad, Tim and Aaron Paul did an amazing job at keeping everyone rolling. It is still beyond all of us here at Drift Bikes about the lack of preparation that a lot of bikes simply don’t receive. More than half of the issues we see at the races are due to lack of maintenance or over use of equipment. Our single greatest performed repair was broken chains, something that is extremely unlucky if kept in clean, lubed and working order. So to anyone out there thinking of giving this event a go, include your bike in your preparation and avoid being that guy who discovers he has no brake pads on the start line. As always with Drift Bikes we offer free quoting and this goes for at the races as well. So definitely factor in a visit to the tent as part of your post race ritual so the guys can check your bike over in case there is something you have missed.
On the subject of preparation I think the biggest thing that caught a lot of people out with respect to entering the event for the entire four days would be the cost.
At $410 I agree that this is a sizable amount of money and probably well in advance of what many of you have spent on individual races, but, this is more than a race, it's 4 unique stages, back to back and no matter who you are, it’s a challenge worth going after. For a little over $1.10 per day from now to the next race, you can save up and enter this race. So keep May 2016 clear of events, create a direct transfer to a hidden account and start preparing now!
But of course, bike preparation and financial preparation are only part of the journey when it comes to entering a 4 day stage race. The other facets are of course preparing your body and having a clear picture of how your four days will go with respect to transportation, feeding and refueling. In preparation for next years Port to Port MTB, Drift Bikes will be aiming to host a reconnaissance ride on each of the 4 stages, designed not only around giving you a better comprehension for the distance of each stage but also for allowing you to uncover some of your weaknesses in order to be able to better prepare yourself for the main event. I cannot admit enough to the inner advantage I felt over the four days knowing what was around each corner and when the climbs would level out and turn into descents.
Going into this years event we had a great number of Drift Bikes riders enter the event but before I mention them I want to put a massive thank you out to our customers that supported the event by volunteering their time. Its mentally and physically tough out there on the bike and when you get that tiny bit of encouragement from the volunteers (and spectators) it lights you up, if only for a moment but usually brings a smile to your face and makes you appreciate the opportunity to ride your bike. So a massive thanks out there to all of the volunteers.
Drift Bikes had some awesome results and a massive congrats goes out to all of our riders who braved even 1 of the stages. Su Pretto took out the 50-59 Women’s category, Laura Renshaw placed 6th in the Open Women's category and our own carbon repairer and all round shop guy Peter O’Sullivan humbly took out the 50-59 Mens Category and finished an incredible 24th overall! Other Drift Bikes riders to take home some solid results were Peter Selkrig who placed 4th in the 50-59 Mens Category all whilst racing with a broken pelvis thanks to being cleaned up by a caravan a few weeks ago!
I am personally ecstatic about my own result and having come so close to achieving my goal of a top 20 finish. Finishing 21st overall left me with a huge sense of achievement and above anything else I'm completely wrapped in my equipment and the team of people around me who helped make my experience a lot easier to deal with simply by helping with the small tasks that seem to take so much of your energy at the end of a long stage! Along the way I got to ride with many of our riders including Shane Taylor, Jake Pattison, Dan Felton and Matt Brown to name a few, all of whom were hard at it and had awesome individual rides. I have to make special mention to Anthony Lloyd Jones who drove out to Millfield on Stage 2 and met me with a fresh bottle of goodness, did the same again for me on Day 3 atop of the biggest climb and then parked up on redhead road and handed me a “superbottle” on Day 4. You sir, are a dead set champion!
Drift Bikes is wrapped on this years event and we are stoked to have seen so many of our bikes and riders out there getting it done! If there’s one event for you to do next year, this is it. Drift Bikes is here for you with everything from your nutrition, bikes, gear, technical service and reconnaissance, right down to your spare chainlink (sorry JF) Keep an eye out for the upcoming doco in early August on SBS1 and if there is anything you want to know, we’ll see you in store.
- Robbie Mc"Jugger"Naughton