Words: Zoe Binder | Images: Tim Bardsley-Smith and Zoe Binder

The Queen stage of the Port to Port started with the smell of coffee and sunshine between the trees on the starting crowd at Cooranbong, inland from Newcastle. Ahead of today’s 59kms and 1200m of vertical, there were a number of tired riders, starting to feel the strain of the previous two days of flowing singletrack. A long climb following the famous Awaba singletrack, would prove to be challenging and scenic penultimate stage for the hundreds of riders amassed for Port to Port 2018.

After a tight race in the Fat Tire Crit on Newcastle's foreshore on Friday night, Cameron Ivory and Holly Harris entered the stage with a minute up on their opponents thanks to the time bonuses on offer.

In the men’s field an early break appeared from Brendan Johnston, Tasman Nankervis and Michael Potter on the main fire road climb, and their fitness allowed them to open a break of 2 minutes to the chase group.

Current race leader Cameron Ivory from Trek Shimano tried to jump off the front of this group, and with the help of team mates Callum Carson and Russ Nankervis, tried to make some punchy moves off the front in the singletrack.

The lead group of three fought it out until the finish, where ACA’s Michael Potter was first over the line, but too far down for GC contention due to yesterday’s mechanical. Brendan Johnston  moves into first place with a 14 second lead to Tasman Nankervis coming to the final stage of the 2018 Port to Port.

Holly Harris continued to open her gap on Jessica Simpson and Sarah Tucknott, where her grinning face could be seen mixing it up at the pointy end of the men’s field. A strong ride in the last three stages puts her in a comfortable position, running into the final leg of the race tomorrow. The 

The full results are online.

“The last few day I felt like I hadn’t shown my strengths enough," said Tasman Nankervis after the race. "Today I was feeling strong and followed Treky and Potter when on the climb to make the break. Definitely this week my strength has been climbing”.

Cam Ivory lost the lead, and is now about a minute and a half back from Johnston in the lead, with Nankervis 15 seconds of Johnston.

"We kept it together through the singletrack at Awaba and that was ok for me," said Ivory. "It's my local trails and I was happy to sit in and stay fresh for the climb. I knew these boys know I haven't been climbing that well, and going up that fire road climb I knew Tas was going to drive it up there. I hung on until maybe halfway then watched them ride away from me."

"I'd dug pretty deep to hold on until then, and then a bunch caught me with Callum Carson, Russ Nankervis, Jay Vine, Jonny Odams and Michael Harris. Cal and Russ helped me out a bit but it really suited the roadies like Potter and Tas today." With singletrack at the start and finish but a big dirt climb, those with a lot of road racing experience did well today - such as stage winner Michael Potter.

So, what about the final stage? With a run up and through Glenrock, can that play to Ivory's strengths given he's only recently moved out of Newcastle?

"We are all riding the singletrack so well. Tomorrow's stage is just about all singletrack and although the loop is just about my normal training loop at Glenrock, I don't think I could even get 30 seconds in those trails."

Time will tell, but one thing's for sure, Port to Port leaves the best for last!