James Cook University in Cairns was the location for today’s highly anticipated inauguration ceremony, where we welcome Reef to Reef into the Australian MTB stage racing assembly.
From the people who bring you the incredibly popular Port to Port (NSW) and Cape to Cape (WA), we now have the “Triple Crown” with the North Queenslanders getting in on the act.
You can ride Reef to Reef as an individual or in a two person team. Pairs racing is such an energising dynamic – if you have chosen the right partner you will have an absolute ball as you follow each other down single-track descents, swap off on open road sections or grovel up climbs together in a little sweaty and dusty ball of cohesion.
The teams were the first let loose on to Stage One of Reef to Reef, racing 20km around Smithfield Mountain Bike Park. The course was essentially split into two sections – the first loop with a few little punchy climbs and dry creek crossings, rewarded with sweeping rainforest single-track, countless berms through a leafy pine plantation and a twisty red dirt section to test your cornering ability.
The second loop – a whole different ball game. Once you navigated out of a twisty, grassy maze (keeping an eye out for those 20 foot pythons North Queensland is famous for), you were set to face three savage climbs that can forever be known as the new Axis of Evil.
The first, up and past a water tower, is sealed for the first three quarters, but requires a bit of pacing. It’s rewarded with a superb single-track descent with plenty of flow, large berms and the odd double for those who appreciate a bit of flight time. The second, an endless set of switchbacks that have freshly been cut in, which were quite enjoyable until the final 200m, which required going up a downhill track, that had many scrambling up on foot. The descent that followed was incredibly steep, covered in loose rock and rather unrewarding given the effort required to get there.
The third prong of the Axis of Evil was nicknamed “The Driveway”, which was apt as it did seem to be someone’s actual driveway, even if the house at the top seemed somewhat unfinished and half abandoned. Riders struggled up in “granny gear”, zig zagging for the odd bit of relief. A short section of single-track was followed by more climbing until you and your team mate finally peaked over the summit and flew down a fast descent with scatterings of asphalt and the odd water bar.
The finish was exceptional, with a chance to shoot down the famous Jacob’s Ladder (A or B lines) from the World Cup track, followed by an awesome section of fast, jumpy single track with plenty of speed. 20km of racing with 800m of climbing in the bank, ready for Stage 2 tomorrow!