Day 2 of Reef to Reef finds itself up on the range at Davies Creek.
Reef to Reef stands apart from Cape to Cape and Port to Port thanks to the diversity of Tropical North Queensland. After the jungle and singletrack on stage one, riders went up the range on day two, heading to the Atherton Tablelands and Davies Creek,ready to race on a network of flowing trails winding along the shadowed slopes of the Lamb Range.
Cooler morning temperatures created a false sense of security and everyone dug deep when the gun went. It wouldn't be so hot like yesterday, surely!
Giant Australia Off Road pairing of Brendan Johnston and Jon Odams had another brilliant day on the trails and after a tough morning are delighted to hold an eleven minute buffer at the mid point of their Reef to Reef defence.
“It was a proper fun stage today," said Johnston. "I really liked this one last year and I knew we would enjoy it again. The singletrack is really quite fun and it suits me a bit more than the bike park yesterday. It was a good challenge but this stage is really fast, with loose corners and some of the descents are quite long and fast.”
“Today we wanted to cement a good lead, put the other boys under a bit of pressure and open the gap up early on. We just want to bank up a good lead and enjoy it into Port Douglas on Sunday. It is good to ride with the other boys and they will challenge us on the next stages if we are taking it a bit easy. If they get a sniff they will be right there.”
Odams said that the pair are mindful of the dangers of relaxing or becoming complacent.
“It is twin edged sword. If you relax too much that is when there is a tendency to have things come undone, so it is better to hold a little bit of pressure on the pedals, that is for sure.”
While the Giant (they're actually not that tall) boys continued to ride brilliantly and dominate out front, all eyes were on Tas Nankervis who has arrived in the ‘north’ with nothing to lose and everything to gain. After an ill-fated Port to Port in May, the talented Nankervis is back on the bike to exorcise a few demons. He is having a blast and is literally flying, cutting a swathe through the field at every opportunity.
“Port to Port was just a comedy of errors so it nice to come here and have no dramas and enjoy it. This week is kind of training, holiday and racing for me. I had a big off season this winter, and I have only been on the bike for three or four weeks, so I am in that building phase, so this is perfect really.”
In dry dusty conditions similar to Bendigo trails he rides regularly, Nankervis was able to unleash his enormous talent in a game of cat and mouse.
“The solo riders started five minutes behind the elite pairs, so they had a fair gap and I just wanted to see how many I could catch. I rode my own pace and kept chipping away and slowly caught a few of the pairs and got to give a bit of banter as I went past. It was quite funny.”
Two riders among many to experience the humour and the rush of air going past that was Nankervis, were Mixed Pairs leader Holly Harris and brother Michael, and VDP Brothers member Paul van der Ploeg who is making his welcome return to competition after an horrific crash in February.
“Tas rode past us and yelled out “track”, like excuse me Holly, ‘Track”. So I see how it is,” Holly laughed.
Van der Ploeg was delighted to be back in the saddle after colliding with a tree in New Zealand in February and is happy with his current second place in the Open Men’s Pairs.
“From the gun I tasted my breakfast a few times because the climbs were brutal to start with. When we got into the MTB park itself it got a bit more flowy and we found a good group with the Giant Cairns guys and 15km from the end we saw Tas come flying past. We just let him go because he is solo and we don’t want to get involved with that race but we did have a ripping sprint at the end.”
“Today I was riding safe because it is my first race back after the broken leg, so I am making sure that I am getting through without any issues and having fun. I haven’t ridden 50km in over six months so it is a big test. The leg is way ahead of schedule in terms of recovery. Most people say a year for a broken femur but I have been on top of the physio and working on my strength in the gym and my back is feeling better than ever. It shows if you put in the work, you can come back strong. Coming up to Reef to Reef is awesome, it is rubbish weather in Melbourne, three degrees, raining and an Antarctic front. I am stoked to be up here cooking.”
Triple World Superbike Champion Troy Bayliss is currently in fourth place in the Solo GC and leading the Grand Master category and from the smile on his face crossing the finish line he was stoked to finish day two, so strong.
“I am having a great time, it is awesome, an awesome event. I am really enjoying it. The best part of today was the creek crossings, cooling your feet down. It was incredible. I found a nice group to ride about halfway through and we just cruised along did a bit of work together. It was really nice, they are a good bunch of dudes.”
“On paper that course looked easier than what it was. That is always the way but it was really good. I am pretty happy with the way it is going. I have to make sure I keep myself in good condition because tomorrow is going to be really hard. A long day, but good fun. What I have been doing is starting with a couple of the faster guys but if you stay with them for 20 minutes all it does is burn you. So, I am going to have to think a bit smarter. I have a new plan for tomorrow,” he said.
Briony Mattocks and Anna Beck (Fox and Racoon) have a commanding lead in the Open Women’s Pairs but there is no slowing them down.
“I didn’t feel too bad this morning and I felt good for the first five minutes and then I felt a bit cooked. Stage two was hard, it started really hard. The terrain was really tough for the first quarter with really pinchy climbs that didn’t end and a super big climb. It was just brutal. Everyone was blowing up, coming good and then blowing up again. It just hurt. I did my ‘Bambi on Ice’ impersonation around a couple of corners with the pea gravel floating around but the single track we finished on was a load of fun,” Briony said.
Stage 2 OPEN MEN PAIRS
1 Giant Australia Off-Road Team 02:07:35
2 VDP Brothers - Giant Bicycles - Shimano - Falls Cr 02:15:11
3 Bicycle Centre Cairns 02:15:12
4 Astute Financial KB 02:21:16
5 VP Inparadise 2 02:34:53
Stage 2 OPEN WOMEN PAIRS
1 Fox and Raccoon 02:41:33
2 Veris Racing 03:20:41
3 The Flappas 04:51:09
Stage 2 OPEN MIXED PAIRS
1 SRAM MTOSS 02:22:45
2 Shimano Pushys Cannondale 02:32:18
3 Merida Shimano 02:34:31
4 Astute Financial Racing 02:36:14
5 Giant Wollongong 02:37:07
Team GC: OPEN MEN
1 Giant Australia Off-Road Team 03:04:41
2 Bicycle Centre Cairns 03:16:18
3 VDP Brothers - Giant Bicycles - Shimano - Falls Cr 03:26:37
4 Astute Financial KB 03:26:45
5 VP Inparadise 03:47:15
Team GC Teams: OPEN MIXED
1 SRAM MTOSS 03:26:29
2 Shimano Pushys Cannondale 03:40:50
3 Astute Financial Racing 03:46:36
4 Merida Shimano 03:48:40
5 Giant Wollongong 03:49:26