The final day of Port to Port mixes some of the best trails, with one of Australia's best finish lines and finish parties. What's not to like?
The promise of the world’s most perfect finish line carried riders through the final stage of the 2019 edition of Port to Port, as did plenty of fun singletrack to keep everyone smiling along the way. Today’s stage, starting at Belmont Golf Course, took riders due north through some of Newcastle’s best singletrack, including the sandy maze of the Redhead and Whitebridge trail networks and the superb flow trails of Glenrock.
Today, Brendan Johnston and Jon Odams, of team GIANT-Shimano walked away with the win, the sixth Epic Oceania Series win on Johnston’s win list. The pair resurrected themselves after an incident filled day one to dominate the final three stages. The pair called on all their skill and collective experience, sticking to their plan and believing in themselves.
“Stage racing and mountain bike racing can throw everything at you just like has this week to everyone. We are just stoked to come out on top. We had the issues on day one, got them out of the way and then it was a matter of pushing through and picking off teams as we went. We had strong rides every day and were pumped with our form and how we rode together, we were really strong as a team.”
“Yesterday was particularly our best day and we rode together well on the long climb. We rode perfectly up the front with the best climbers. It was key to us and proved we ride together well. Reef to Reef will be the next time we pair up, so we are looking forward to defending our title there. We are forming a great partnership as we are going along and we are only going to get better with the more races we do.”
Determined to make up for a rocky three days in the saddle the Wollongong based Ward Brothers brought everything to the final run into Newcastle, winning the stage and getting some welcome reward from a tough event.
“Going into today we thought it would be nice to finish on a high. Jayden was riding the trails so good we thought maybe there was a chance we could pull back time for second place on GC, so we thought we might as well have a crack. It wasn’t really an attack to go for the stage, it was more there is always a chance you can make up time. After stage 2 we were a bit disappointed, so the stage win is kind of a consolation,” Kyle said.
In contrast to the drama going on around them in the four days of intense riding through the stunning Newcastle and Hunter region, Kiwis Samara Sheppard and Kate McIlroy put in a flawless performance to win the final stage into Dixon’s Beach and wrap up the Women’s Teams event.
“We had a really good stage today. We pushed on at the front and found ourselves in a really good group and rode really well through the single track holding the wheels and every time I looked back Kate was right there,” Samara said. “The road sections were super fast and the stage just flew by. It was epic. There were no mishaps for the four days, it was perfect for us.”
“Kate and I have done a lot of riding together on road bikes and had a good friendship before this, so we know that we can work through anything we come across. It is great to win Port to Port as a team because I have won it as an individual but it is special to share the victory with someone. It is very different to winning as a solo. You get to ride the highs with another person, it is pretty special,” she said.
Kate said it was a great decision to come over to Australia and she now has a taste for experiencing what the Epic Series events in Cairns and Margaret River have to offer.
“Samara has a lot of skill and I was very conscious of not dropping her wheel the whole time. I have improved a lot over the four days and learned to take a few more risks than I probably would, so it has built my confidence. It has been an awesome four days and I have loved riding with Samara and I am looking forward to the rest of the Epic Series.”
Armidale siblings Holly and Michael Harris kept everyone entertained all week and worked in perfect harmony throughout, dominating the Mixed Teams from the gun.
“It has been an awesome four days. We had a rough start today but we worked our way in and enjoyed the single track. It is really cool to be able to share this Port to Port victory with Michael,” the 2018 solo champ said. ”I think it is way more satisfying to win it as a pair. You are doing it together and it is hard. There are two working pieces to the puzzle and it is hard to keep it smooth and mechanical free. I was just happy with how we worked well together and I am excited to do some more racing with Mick.”
“Holly is riding pretty fast and on some sections she is hurting me,” Michael said. “I often wonder who the stronger partner is but it is really fun and I have had a great week. We were fortunate and didn’t have any problems, so it is hard not to have a smile when everything is going to plan.”
After emerging from Glenrock’s flowy goodness, Port to Port riders rolled down the final, super-fast descent of Scenic Drive and into the finish straight at Merewether Beach. Here, they were greeted by perfect, sunny conditions for the Eats, Beats and Bikes Festival – topping the event off in perfect style surrounded by family and friends.
The Epic Series Oceania has successfully introduced the pairs format into the Australian and New Zealand race scene and it looks like it’s here to stay – next the Epic Series roadshow moves on to Tropical North Queensland between 8-11 August, where riders can test themselves over four days of trails and thrills under the beautiful Queensland sun.
Results – General Classification
1 GIANT AUSTRALIA OFF-ROAD TEAM 08:00:46
2 TREK SHIMANO AUSTRALIA 08:07:44
3 WARD BROS 08:08:59
4 REECE & REESY - DOUBLE TROUBLE 08:21:22
5 GIANT AUSTRALIA TEAM 08:30:27
1 SAM N KATE 09:09:54
2 SPECIALIZED-SHIMANO 10:01:28
3 TREK SHIMANO AUSTRALIA GIRLS 10:19:31
4 EM&EM 11:02:45
1 SRAM MERIDA AUS 08:56:11
2 PUSHYS SHIMANO CANNONDALE 09:20:42
3 MARATHONMTB.COM 09:38:37
4 PIVOT SHIMANO 09:38:39
5 GIANT WOLLONGONG 09:54:01