The inaugural Reef to Reef got underway today as around 300 riders wrapped themselves around the trails of Smithfield MTB Park.
Reef to Reef is the new northern cousin for thw wildly popular Cape to Cape and Port to Port 4-day events in Western Australia and New South Wales respectively. Making what some are calling the new triple-crown in Australian mountain biking, the first year also sees a bit of a first for this series of races, as the event crew have a pairs racing option. And that's exactly where they want the focus to be with generous prize money on offer for men's, women's and mixed teams.
The four days are really diverse, and stage one as a time trial at Smithfield was always going to standout. With 20km and 700m of climbing, those who pre-rode the course had tales of treacherous descents and climbs that looked like walls and may necessitate climbing equipment. This, and general fear-mongering cautionary comments circled around social media messages, carparks, hotel courtyards and toilet blocks.
As always - only the trails could hold the answer.
With racing underway at 12:30, teams were off first, and with Brendan Johnston and Jon Odams rolling out first most would guess that the first teamn on course would be the first off it as well. And as they rolled in under one hour - it looked likely.
Samara Sheppard and souigneur Kyle Ward were together in the Mixed teams and won that category, with Jess Simpson and Ryan Lennox trailing in 2nd.
Briony Mattocks and Anna Beck stormed the women's teams, putting a healthy buffer between themselves and a team from New Zealand.
And Masters. This is always where the action lies. First, you've got Rohin Adams and Brad Clarke, fresh off a podium finish at the Cape Epic. Then there is the duo of Anthony Shippard and Mike Cameron, ready to push them hard. Then add the locals, like Bart and Bren, the Giant Cairns mob and Marty and Linc from Bicycle Central... and they all finished within the top 10 overall, with Rohin and Brad claiming the lead. This will be an interesting race.
And the treacherous course? Without going full on at race pace it is hard to tell - but it was challenging and fun. There was certainly plenty of singletrack, and plenty of climbing. But there was no useless descending, I think every metre climbed was worth it.
ON the single scene, Nathan Sandford scored the position of top dog, and Sarah White was the fastest woman in 12th overall. We'll see how that plays out in the coming days.
For now, riders are grabbing towels, heading to a beach to relax, a bike shop to fix broken bits, or just getting prepped for tomorrow's bigger stage, with 50km up on the range at Davies Creek. We'll all be up early and tackling the drive up the range for the 8am start - it should be a cracker!