The 2nd Reef to Reef MTB Stage Race got underway today on the well-known trails at Smithfield MTB Park just outside Cairns. With clear blue skies, 27 degree heat, 65 percent humidity plus the tough Smithfield trails, it was Mother Nature who took the early the points. Or more acurately, it was Brendan Johnston and Jon Odams who put their line in the sand as the fastest team in town.

Defending champions Johnston and Odams (GIANT Australia Off Road Team) were the only pair to break the elusive hour mark, throwing everything they had at the tough 17km time trial stage. Despite their success they finished the day rethinking their plans for the coming three days of riding.

Johnston was happy with the four minute buffer they had accumulated on local Bicycle Centre Cairns pair of Nathan Sandford and Dominic Hoyal, but he was first to admit it had taken its toll.

“Things are going pretty good. Jon was so strong today but I struggled a bit. I think maybe it was the heat and it really got to me. It was just a fast, hard stage and I was just trying to keep up. This stage is definitely different to the rest of the week, it is the most technical and twisty stage and the steepest as well. It was a really tough race.”

“It is six degrees and rain at home at home in Canberra today, so I am really enjoying the warm weather but it does make it hard riding. It will be different tomorrow, a bit longer, a bit flatter and not as punchy. Today was the toughest XC style track but really fun. I think everyone would have enjoyed it.”

Odams might have fared better than Johnston on the day but he is mindful of how they approach the next three days.

“It was just the heat out there. The first 5km to the top of the first climb I wasn’t feeling ideal and I could feel the extra heat in my stomach. After that I thought I would go to the front and get a little gap on the descent so Brendan could bridge across on the big climb, but the heat was starting to take affect at that point. I rode up and back down and we regathered at the bottom and we jogged it in at the end. It was really funny but the heat is a big change from the southern states that is for sure.”

“Stage one was a wake up call to everyone that you can’t ride flat out as if it is 10 degrees and nice and cool. It is 27 degrees and ten times the humidity up here so you have to look after your body that little bit better. The weather is going make people change their tactics and hydration is going to be number one.”

“Smithfield is a great place to start, especially with the history of having World Cup and World Championship events here. Having the technical trails first, seeds everyone up and gets everyone to know where they are for the coming stages. Stage two is technical with a lot of pedalling but stage three is open and fast. But they are all great in their own way,” he said.

Reef to Reef is a family affair for the Armidale based Harris family, with mum, dad, and the two kids all riding. In third place overall and leading the mixed pairs, Holly and Michael Harris smashed stage one but they are wondering if they did a little too much too early.

“Hot, fast and tough sums it up but everyday on a MTB is a good day. I have the taste of blood in my mouth. It was so hard today and I really, really hurt. I am not sure if it was a good thing or not, let’s see tomorrow, so watch this space. I think we were both feeling good… but Michael says it was me. I don’t know about that. I was a bit worried on the first climb because my derailleur hanger is really bent so I couldn’t change gears and was grinding a super hard gear. So, Michael had to use his big biceps to push me along like a good fellow,” Holly said.

Flying the family flag, Dad, David Harris and mum Lisa are currently holding down seventh place in the Grand Masters.

“Mum was really nervous so I hope dad looked after her. She has done more training than all of us and I am honestly inspired by her. She has worked really hard, so I hope she has a really good time,” the protective Holly said.

Briony Mattocks and Anna Beck, riding as Fox and Racoon are leading the women’s pairs but they too had a tough day at the stunning Smithfield MTB Park.

“For us Southerners it is pretty different to what we have doing. I am used to training in 2-4 degrees so I am sweating bullets but there are Tasmanians here, so I don’t have the right to complain. It definitely woke the body up but it is awesome to ride here at Smithfield. It is great single track and some really nice changes to the course from last year. One of the big descents was awesome fun.”

“Jacobs Ladder and I don’t have the best relationship and I got a rear flat down there and had to stop and put some air in it. I got going again but it was still spewing sealant. It felt like it was holding at about 12-15 psi, so I just kept riding. It made it a lot hard but that is alright. I got there in the end.”

“We always say we are going to ride consistently but we end up riding hard. Pacing is not our forte, so you just keep going. There is nowhere else to go but the finish line, so the next few days will be interesting,” Briony said.

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2          Bicycle Centre Cairns                                                 01:01:06           
3          Astute Financial KB                                                    01:05:29           
4          Rhys Jones really enjoys listening to Nickelback      01:07:38           
5          Kiwi T7                                                                        01:09:47           
1          SRAM MTOSS                                                           01:03:43           
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3          Astute Financial Racing                                              01:10:21           
4          Giant Wollongong                                                       01:12:18           
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2          Veris Racing                                                               01:29:34           
3          The Flappas                                                                02:02:44