What a day at Reef to Reef! Paul van der Ploeg takes the stage win with his brother Neil.
The stunning rainforests and quick trails of Reef to Reef’s stage three had riders scrambling for adjectives post race to explain the pleasure, pain and scenic beauty of 66km in the saddle around Mt Molloy.
After another strong day’s riding, it was the Mixed Pairs and the Solo women leaders, Holly Harris and Perth’s Neasa Jordan who best summed up the joy of day three.
“We got to the top of the climb and hooly dooly, incredible views. Stuff that people in other countries wouldn’t even dream about. It is just untouched and beautiful. Riding wise it was so challenging, big ruts, creek crossings, you name it they had it out there and it was wild,” Holly declared.
“It was lovely riding out there under the cool canopy of the rainforest and I went for two swims with my bike which was lovely and cooling,” Neasa said. “My back is killing me so I purposely lay down and it felt great but I lost my Garmin, so there goes my cups and queens. If it is not on Strava it doesn’t count.”
Given the enormous restrictions that Neasa’s health and constant battle with Fibromyalgia has played on preparation for the event, to be leading the Solo Women on GC is nothing more than remarkable. She is looking forward to heading to the Port Douglas finish line and a break to recover
“I am very surprised to be leading the solo women because I haven’t been in good shape and haven’t had optimum training. Every few weeks the pain from the Fibromyalgia starts and I just have to lay down and deal with it until it eases off and then keep moving. I am being massaged every night and cracked and broken and I have cream rubbed everywhere.”
“I love the final stage. The Bump Track is awesome but you need a new set of brake pads by the end of it. Man, it is fun. It is so steep that if you get out of control it is not going to end well. There is a fine line between fast and out of control. Then hubby and I are going up to the Daintree for a couple of days afterwards to sleep and relax,” she said.
Grand Master Pairs leader Matt Bazzano said he and buddy Peter Selkrig did well enough on Stage Three that it was time for a welcome reward.
“It was hot and dusty but good fun today, in fact the three days have been awesome. It is a fantastic event. It is a lovely change to come up here from Sydney. The plan for today was to go well enough to have some beers tonight. We are Grand Masters, that is what we do. I think we have earned a couple. Tomorrow is all about finishing and jumping on a plane and heading home. It will ruin the fun, but this doesn’t pay the bills. However, it is a fantastic way to spend the money,” Matt said.
At the pointy end of the Reef to Reef field it is Giant Australia Off Road pair of Brendan Johnston and Jon Odams still well in control of their title defence, although they respectfully shared the stage win with a couple of mates the Van der Ploeg Brothers.
“The defence of Reef to Reef is going well. I have a good team mate in Jon and we are getting better and better. We have been riding together a while now so we have a good combination and we are building on it each time we come together.”
“We were just trying to have an easier day and keep the group together a bit. That is what we did last year. It is kind of a good day to ride and enjoy the company of the others. Paul and Neil were hanging in there and followed us into the line and got around us at the end there. But it was wonderful to see Paul back into the racing. He is a good mate of mine, so it is great to see him amongst it again.”
“The terrain was a bit different today. It was a bit flatter and climbs were a bit more rolling and we were in pure rain forest on the Two Bridges trail. You start here in the outback, you get into the rain forest and then back here again. So, it is quite cool,” Brendan said.
Bendigo’s Tas Nankervis continue to push the envelope in the male Solo competition, although temporarily enlisting the help of Kiwi rider Shane Vincent to help with the pace and keep him company.
“I rode the first 15km with Shane and I got away a bit on the technical creek beds and stuff like that. I am riding pretty well and just chipped away. It is good and bad being by yourself, but I am riding at my own pace. I ended up stopping for water, I ride my own tempo and if I was a bit tired I backed off a bit but it was actually a very fast way to do it in the end. You are not riding in the red zone and don’t risk blowing up.”
“I have a lot of long road races coming up and a few marathons so this kind of training is perfect. It is threshold, sitting on full gas, it is great training. It is unreal. You definitely feel like you are in Queensland because for 40km of the race it was like riding through a maze of rainforest. Like someone had cut a maze through and we were blasting through this very unique place. Reef to Reef is so different to anything I have ever ridden. This is a ‘taster’ for races I would like to do like Cape Epic,” Tas said.
For Hamilton, New Zealand’s Shane Vincent, Reef to Reef has been a flashback and a sort of homecoming.
“I really enjoyed the first stage because 23 years ago I raced there as an under 23 for New Zealand at the World Championship in 1996. I couldn’t remember most of it, but it was good to line up there and it had a wonderful vibe. It was good but a tough first day. Second day was about consolidation and ride hard. Today I was trying to hang onto Tas the best I could through the muddy stuff but he has a little bit more power than I have. There is a bit of an age difference, so, if he wants to ride with me, he has to slow down a little bit.”
“I did The Pioneer last year, so knew about the Epic Series and I have the Epic App and I thought, ‘Ah one of those races might be nice to do one day’. My mate Jason did the Port to Port and I suggested we hook up and ride the pairs at Reef to Reef. Here we are, but unfortunately Jason had to withdraw, so I am riding solo,” he said.
Another fan of the Epic Series App is Holly Harris, who is about to write herself into the record books at Port Douglas tomorrow with a win at Reef to Reef giving her the final piece the Epic Series Triple Crown.
“The Bump Track? I really need to check out tomorrow’s stage so I can adjust my race plan. I am going to check the Epic Series App. It is so easy even I can do it,” she laughed.
Stage 3 OPEN MEN PAIRS
1 (#108) VDP Brothers - Giant Bicycles 02:32:22
2 (#100) Giant Australia Off-Road Team 02:32:22
3 (#178) Bicycle Centre Cairns 02:35:32
4 (#182) Astute Financial KB 02:40:22
GC OPEN MEN PAIRS
1 (#100) Giant Australia Off-Road Team 05:37:03
2 (#178) Bicycle Centre Cairns 05:51:50
3 (#108) VDP Brothers - Giant Bicycles 05:58:59
4 (#182) Astute Financial KB 06:07:08
5 (#122) VP Inparadise 06:37:06
Stage 3 OPEN MIXED PAIRS
1 (#101) SRAM MTOSS 02:44:25
2 (#102) Shimano Pushys Cannondale 02:50:43
3 (#128) Astute Financial Racing 02:54:58
4 (#103) Giant Wollongong 02:59:54
5 (#187) McWins 03:35:52