Davies Creek often goes overlooked in Tropical North Queensland - but after today we doubt that will continue.
Reef to Reef kicked a big goal yesterday when the Prologue was well-received. The sinuous trails at Smithfield were taken as a time trial, or team time trial for the main event of pairs racing. That's all well and good racing the clock solo or with your teamie - but the real fun of bike racing comes when you're racing bar to bar, and when you need to make your teams strength work against your rivals weaknesses. So bring on stage two at Davies Creek!
Davies Creek may not be on your mountain bike radar, but these are the home trails of the Mareeba Mountain Goats, and the trails fall in the Dry Tropics west of the range, meaning that if it's wet at Smithfield, or wet at Atherton in the Cloud Mountains, there's a fair chance that Davies Creek trails will be running dry and fast. It's not a promise, but it's a good bet.
However given the popularity of both Smithfield and Atherton, Davies Creek often gets a snub from riders visiting the Tropical North. Stage two today would change that, with 50km on the cards for riders, mixing farm trails on private land, 4WD tracks and some pretty buff trails!
Yesterday showed that the men's, women's and mixed categories had decisive winners. All the action was in the Masters category where the talent runs the deepest. With 5 Masters teams in the top 10 overall after one stage, we are left to wonder whether the combination of Rohin Adams and Brad Clarke would stay in their leader's jerseys. The Cyclist mag pairing of Anthony Shippard and Mike Cameron had an unfortunate mechanical in the Prologue, and would be hitting the trails with a point to prove. But then in men's The OCS Cycling team of John Groves and Nick Morgan weren't trouble free at Smithfield ever, getting a flat tyre early on. Did they have the talent to burn to make amends?
Tyre tracks amongst the termite mounds and grass trees
All would be decided on the trail, where any smack talking in the start chute counts for nought if you don't have the skills or fitness to back it up.
"It was reasonably quick from the gun," said Brendan Johnston. "Jon was on the front and I was stuck back in the pack a bit as my legs took a while to warm up. It split up pretty early and I think teams were mostly isolated and by themselves. That was good for us, we were able to enjoy it from there on in. We were still pushing hard but we enjoyed the singletrack where we could. It was a really good stage."
"I thought it was a great stage," said Johnston's team mate Jon Odams. "Even the main climb up the singletrack was good. I rode on the front and just rode at a pace I was comfortable with. Through the undulating double track section Trekky sat on the front. We're just riding out our own pace and one we are pretty comfortable with."
And of course, Davies Creek has it's name for a reason. While Johnston went off to do some extra kilometres on the road, Odams was quick to revisit the water after the race alrady visited the creek.
"The creek after the race was great, it felt good on the legs for sure!"
Kyle Ward and Samara Sheppard had another day of great success in their first mixed pairs stage race. Both have a seriously impressive list of accomplishments, and their talent landed them in the green Mixed leader's jerseys - and it doesn't look like they'll be giving them to anyone else in a hurry. Jess and Ryan from Giant Wollongong finished 2nd with Em and Karl of Cycling Foodies in 3rd. Looks like Karl is figuring the mountain bike caper out after all.
Anna Beck and Briony Mattocks looked set to build on their success in the prologue, and make sure their pink Women's leader's jerseys stayed on their shoulders. And while their day (or morning) on the trails had many of the challenges of a mountain bike race the last 5km were a little more exciting given Briony Mattocks' pedal came loose. Some incredible feats of single-legged pedalling got them to the line (in 9th overall!). That means another day without needing to wash their jerseys, as they received some fresh ones for Stage 3.
"Today was fast and rocky with seemingly endless rocky firetrail undulations in the middle of the race," said Anna Beck after the finish. "But then it finished off with a 10km section of fast and shredly singletrack!"
In Masters it was action stations... and Shippard and Cameron were on the hunt! At the end of the stage the leaders of Adams and Clarke were just that, still the leaders. They came in 2nd while the Sydneysiders came in 3rd overall on the stage.
For full results head to the Epic Series App - and follow along for the stage tomorrow, where the Reef to Reef heads to Mt Molloy.
On the single scene today Nathan Sandford had the measure of Jeff Rubach again, putting another couple of minutes into his Townsville rival. Sarah White will hold her women's leader's jersey coming into the 3rd stage as she was victorious again, finishing just outside the top 20 overall.