1. Understand the stages

Reef to Reef has 4 days, with 4 different stages. And best of all - they're all a bit different!

Head to the event site to take a closer look at the course details.

Stage 1 - Smithfield MTB Park | 19km

This stage kicks off after lunch, which should allow you to make the trip from somewhere else - or take a squizz at the course if you came in on Wednesday. This stage has lots of singletrack, so it is raced as a time trial to reduce course traffic.

Take it as you want, but you are going against the clock. If you want to have a top result, you'll need to bring your A game. Not so fussed? Manage the singletrack climbs, and own the singletrack descents!

Stage 2 - Davies Creek | 40km

Welcome to the Dry Tropics! This stage takes place atop the Great Dividing Range, about a 40 minute drive from Smithfield - but it could be a world away. The drive to Davies Creek is a scenic road up the range and through World Heritage listed rainforest. As you drop over the other side, you enter the dry tropics as you approach Mareeba. Its a land of fertile soil, agriculture and irrigated crops. At this point you should be happy you're not racing the Crocodile Trophy, which ascends the range via Coperlade Dam, before descending to Davies Creek.

Instead, Reef to Reef takes on a big circuit, under the trees, along the edge of cattle country, and through the grasslands. Expect loose over hardpack, big drifting turns, and some open trails to really chase down those in front of you.

Stage 3 - Mount Molloy | 66km

This is the longest stage of Reef to Reef, but it's a cracker! Mt Molloy is about 40 minutes from Davies Creek, or about 70 minutes from Smithfield. The town is small, with a pub and a corner store and a few classic Queenslanders (people and buildings). The race takes off through the surrounding farmland, and takes in some trails that swoop through the open bushland.

Farmland pushes right up to the rainforest, and the course dips in and out before taking the plunge into old forestry roads. Expect bridges, dappled light - and jungle. You'll have to look at your Strava map later to see just how close this route takes you to the coast - you're just still about 500m above it.

Stage 4 - Mt Molloy to Port Douglas | 48km

This is the only point to point stage, and Reef to Reef do have shuttles organised to help with the logistics. Otherwise the race start is about a 40 minute drive from the race finish.

While the Bump Track takes pride of place as the stand out feature of this stage, there's more terrain to cover up on the plateau before pointing down. The Bump Track cuts a line through dense jungle, rolling along on a well worn line of trail, before a sharp descent into a creek. If you can master that entry and exit you're doing well. Soon after you'll climb atop a rise before things head down. Fast.

Hold on and check your exit, as you burst into some rural lots. The copurse zigs and then zags through some country roads, cane fields and then the back streets of Port Douglas before landing on the beach. Light the afterburners as the finish is close(ish)! 

That's it. There are climbs, there are iconic descents. You ride through the rainforest, in a rural setting, and to the reef. The Reef to Reef really offers some of the most varied terrain of any mountain bike event in Australia.