After a bit of juggling, the Quad Crown MTB stage racing series will kick off on NSW’s Sapphire Coast, from 5-7 August.
Following a pair of postponements due to Covid and unrelenting wet weather, the Quaddy team are forging ahead to bring a rad event to southern NSW. Race Director Jason Dover tells Flow it was heartbreaking to postpone twice, but it’s also been a blessing in disguise.
“We’ve had a bit of extra time to iron out the issues that often come up with first-time events,” says Dover. “At the start, we were planning the Sunshine Coast (QLD) event and Lakes Entrance (VIC) events in isolation, thinking, ‘let’s get this event designed first, and then we’ll roll out the others.’ But with all the shuffling, we’ve had the chance to bring some continuity — by accident almost — across the way we’ve been able to design each stop.”
Quad Crown goes to the Sapphire Coast
Named for the intense blue colour of the water, the Sapphire Coast is about 2.5hours on the road from Canberra and a six to seven-hour drive from Sydney or Melbourne — or there is an airport in Merimbula, with regular flights from both capital cities.
Southern NSW is a hot spot for trail development, with significant projects happening in Eden, and just beyond the northern edge of the Sapphire Coast in Narooma and Mogo. All of this is in addition to Tathra, which is already a well-established riding destination.
These developments have been spearheaded by locals who want to bring mountain bikers to the region, so it should be no surprise that those same folks are chomping at the bit to attract big events.
“The locals put out a petition early in the piece to try and get the event in town. We’d always planned to do an event in New South Wales as part of the Quad Crown Series, and the local council and the guys down there are so behind it and supportive — they’re pumped,” Dover tells Flow.
Designing the course, however, has been somewhat of a challenge, with several established trail networks in the area like the Fire Shed Trails in Tathra, and Mandini and Manna Park in Merimbula on private land. Unfortunately, the landowners weren’t able to grant permission for the race to come through, so Dover and his team got creative.
“It’s such a beautiful area, and we probably found three or four other areas where we could hold stages that ran all the way up the coast to get from Eden to Tathra, but we ran into complications around private land,” he says
This all comes as the major trail development in Eden is getting underway. Dover tells us those trails will feature heavily in next year’s edition of the race, and the goal for the inaugural Quad Crown Sapphire Coast is to introduce riders to the region.
Quad Crown Sapphire Coast Race Preview
Prelude | Eden | 10km
The Prelude will start and finish at the Eden Country Club, and take to the existing trails in the state forest. These were initially community-built unsanctioned singletrack, however, thanks to the new trail development, they have been formalised, and by all accounts, they are pretty rad.
“It’s a bit longer than the other events we have planned, but it will be a nice chance for everyone to get in, have a warmup ride on Friday, and get it all started,” says Dover.
This will be a quick hit to determine the seeding for the remainder of the stages, and set the elite field.
Stage one | Tathra | 29km, 657m vertical
The next morning, the race convoy will head about 40min up the Princess Highway to Tathra, where the Tathra Beach Country Club will host both the morning and afternoon stages. Dover tells us they will have a big festival area with food, drinks and more.
“Being able to base the morning and afternoon stages at the one location is going to make it easy for the riders and should be a lot of fun,” says Dover.
Before heading into the singletrack, stage one heads north of town across the Bega River into Mogoreeka.
“We’ll do a loop out near Moon Bay and come back, so that will be a really scenic way to start the race. And then we’re back into what we’d call the ‘full locals lap’ the Bundadung trail network,” says Dover.
We asked Dover to explain what he meant by a full locals lap of Bundadung, and he said it would entail not just the best trails in the network, but assembled into the most fun order to ride them — hitting Evil Tom, Soft Sally, Kingys, Nizentite, and Anchors Away to name a few.
As we mentioned at the start, both the Saturday stages keep to the Bundadung network because most of the Fire Shed Trails traverse private land, and the race team and land owner were unable to reach an agreement for access. Maybe next year.
Stage two | Tathra | 32km, 541m of vertical
After you’ve downed a burger and maybe had a sneaky lunch beer, the afternoon stage will head south from Tathra and hit White Rock Road.
“We’re using White Rock Road in a loop with the Games Bay Fire Trail, which has some nice technical singletrack on the way out,” says Dover.
This journey south of town is where the stage gets a lot of its distance, but Dover says what’s waiting for the riders on the way back is the most fun.
“Often, when you go in and try to design a course, sometimes there are certain trails that you may need to use backwards. Often we find when you talk to locals, the clubs or the trail builders, they are horrified when you’re going the wrong way on a trail,” says Dover.
“But Chris Pittolo and the group from the Tathra Mountain Bike Club have been really supportive of riding some of their trails in different directions, and they reckon that some of them can flow really well, and be quite unique and challenging ridden backwards,” he says.
So when the course hits Bundadong for the second time, it uses many of the same trails, but riders may not even recognise bits of singletrack they’ve already ridden because they’re coming at it from the opposite direction.
Dover tells us that the singletrack at Tathra is fantastic and the ideal venue for an XC race because it’s approachable for riders across a range of skill levels. He thinks the singletrack will be the highlight of Saturday.
At the same time, Dover doesn’t discount the loops north in the morning and south in the afternoon.
“Going out to Mogoreeka and crossing the bridge will be a highlight; it’s such a beautiful area.
And then, in the afternoon heading south and getting into that coastal area is a great ride, which will break the course up. White Rock (Road) is quite rocky and technical, so that will be a challenging part of the course before they get back into Tathra for the singletrack,” Dover says.
All up for stages one and two, the total ride for the day will be 61km with 1,198m of climbing, and the predicted ride time for each stage is about 90-minutes for the elites and between two and three and a half hours for the rest.
“They’ll hit the end of Saturday and know they’ve had a decent ride,” laughs Dover.
Stage three | Eden | 28km, 953m of vertical
After a big day in the saddle on Saturday, you’ll want to spend a bit of extra time on the foam roller and hit the carbs, because stage three is anything but a leisurely stroll along the beach. The Quad Crown Sapphire Coast finale is the shortest stage of the weekend, but for what it lacks in distance, it more than makes up for in climbing.
Starting again from the Eden Gardens Country Club, riders will tackle 900m of ascending over 28km. It’s uphill, and straight into some pretty technical climbing right off the bat and then back into the singletrack south of the start/finish, ending through the same trail network that features in the Prelude.
“The singletrack that we are able to use to get in and out of Eden is really, really good. It’s beautiful trail, in a beautiful area with good bits of elevation,” says Dover.
“The local singletrack will be memorable, and there will be an element of the fact that you just conquered over 900m of elevation in 28km. But I reckon part of the fun is it’s a bit of a preview because that area is going to hold 50km of singletrack next year.”
For the third and final stage, Dover again expects it will be about 1.5-hours for the elites to bang out a lap of the course and between two and three hours for the rest.
What is the Quad Crown MTB series?
The Quad Crown is unique because it’s not just a one-off race in a faraway place. It’s a series of four events spread across NSW, Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria. Being that it’s a series, points will be awarded at each race that will go towards the overall Quad Crown victory. And yes, we’ve confirmed there will be actual crowns up for grabs in addition to cash prizes and schwag packs.
Head over to our explainer for a full rundown on how the Quad Crown works.
When can you enter the Quad Crown Sunshine Coast?
Entries for the Quad Crown Sunshine Coast are open now!
There are race categories for singles, pairs, juniors, masters and e-MTBs. Riders can also sign up for the whole weekend or just the Saturday or Sunday stages.
For more info, pricing, and to register, head over to the Quad Crown MTB Series website for more.
Photos: Destination NSW, Ryan De La Rue / Contour Works, Flow MTB, Damian Breach, David Rogers / Sapphire Coast Destination Marketing