Welcome to Eden | Quad Crown The Orca gives riders an exclusive first ride of new Eden trails

The new mountain bike park in Eden, NSW isn’t quite open to the public yet, but the third event in the Quad Crown MTB series — The Orca — gave riders an exclusive first ride on the trails here.

And riders from all over the country flocked to the Sapphire Coast for the mini-stage race.

“It’s definitely the best Quad Crown Series event we’ve done so far — and I thought the other two went really. Everyone came in with super high expectations about Eden, and it went super well — it’s such a great place,” says Race Director Jason Dover.

For its third stop, the Quad Crown MTB Series set sail for the Sapphire Coast.


What is the Quad Crown?

Quad Crown is a brand-new MTB stage racing series run by the same team who originally pioneered the Cape to Cape and Port to Port.

While these races follow a multi-day format, there are mini-stage races. Each stage is shorter, and the whole thing is run and won in two-and-a-half days.

‘Every one of the courses we’ve designed so far has been challenging but really fun. When we’ve done traditional stage races previously, you tend to put in a lot of fire roads and climbs because you need to create a 50-60km course. We’ve got the luxury of running smaller stages now, that feature all the best parts of the area, rather than worrying about total kilometres,” says Dover.

foRather than focusing on racking up kms, the idea of a mini-stage race is to maximise the time spent on the fun singletrack.The first stop was Devonport, and the second was on the Sunshine Coast, with this third event running on the Sapphire Coast across Tathra and Eden. After a slight adjustment to the schedule, the Quad Crown finale will return to familiar stomping grounds for the race team in Newcastle.

While winners are crowned at the end of each event, points are up for grabs and there will be an overall champion for both the race standings and the handicap-based Warrior Crown.

Want to know more about the Quad Crown and the other events in the series? Check out our full explainer article here.

The other thing the Quad Crown is doing is taking mountain bikers places that many not have previously been on their radar.

Prelude | Eden | The taster

Friday afternoon saw riders take to a 9km loop starting from the trailhead at Eden. The dusty and windy course provided a challenge for folk

s aiming to put down a quick time for seeding into the start waves the following day and to set their handicap for the Warrior Crown.

“Everyone kept saying how lucky they felt to be the first to ride these trails properly and how beautiful the trails and the build were — flowy was the buzzword of the day,” says Dover.

It’s safe to say the field was pretty excited to get a taste of the trails in Eden.

Dan McConnell would lay down the fastest time in the Prelude, riding the 9km course in 28:25 with Tali Lane-Welsh and Jon Odams hot on his heels.

Katherine Hosking laid down an absolute ripper of a ride on the Prelude, finishing in 33:34, pipping Samara Sheppard by about one second. Em Viotto and Peta Mullens were a bit further back, but only a hair off this blistering pace.

The reason that Eden has had to delay its opening is because it hasn’t rained, the many of the trails need some moisture to cure. With that, it was pretty darn dusty.
From what we did get to see of the trails, Contour Works had put together a veritable masterpiece of flow.
After the Prelude, it was off to the Hotel Australasia for the welcome event and some rehydration. No word on when the album drops.
It was all smiles from the riders and the event team after the Prelude. Bring on Stage 1!

Stand 1 | Tathra | The interlude

Having wet their whistles at Gravity Eden riding a short preview of the course, the race headed 45 min north to Tathra.

“After getting their first ride at Eden, everyone was talking about how they can’t wait to get back on Sunday,” says Dover. “Saturday (Stage 1) sort of became the interlude, because I don’t think a lot of people had been to the Sapphire Coast. They’d heard about Tathra and the trails there, but they hadn’t necessarily ridden them. Without a doubt, Liam (McGuire, the Quad Crown Course Manager) put together damn near a perfect course.”

The start line for Stage 1 was basically on the beach.
Pretty spectacular background for the rollout from the start.

Starting and finishing on the front doorstep of the Tathra Hotel with the ocean as the backdrop, the 35 km course headed south for a 14 km loop of fire trails and old-school singletrack. There was a good bit of climbing in this loop as it was designed to break up the field before crossing into the singletrack at Bundadung.

“I was standing at the road crossing at 14km, and a lot of people were coming through blowing pretty hard,” laughs Dover. “Everyone had gone out really fast and excited, thinking it was only 35km, and then crossed the road to 15-20km of non-stop singletrack to smash into the finish.”

The course in Tathra offered quite a contrast to the fresh machine-built trails in Eden. The handmade, old-school trails in Bundadung are well bedded in with classic XC style.

Into the trails, Tathra provided quite a contrast from the machine-built trails the day prior.
With the stages only being 35km, the pace was pretty high, and people were gassed when they crossed back over the main road.
Katherine Hosking in the leader’s jersey, trying to fend off some very strong riders in the Women’s field.
At first, there was a group of four Elite Men that included Ward, Lane Walsh, and McConnell, however McConnell punctured and fell off the back.

Dover says by the time riders got back to the Tathra Hotel at the finish, they were absolutely cooked, but they had massive smiles on their faces.

“The local club had done the best job helping us prepare the trails and the course in general. It was a brilliant stage,” he says.

In the men’s field, Jon Odams, Tali Lane-Welsh, Kyle Ward and Dan McConnell got away. McConnell suffered a puncture and would come into the finish about 2 minutes behind the leading three. Odams managed to win the stage, but thanks to a few seconds in the bag from the Prelude, Lane-Welsh would take the overall leader’s jersey.

In the Women’s Race, Samara Sheppard was the strongest on the day and would win, building a one-minute gap over Katherine Hosking and Peta Mullens, who would finish two seconds apart. After stage one, the Women’s GC matched the stage podium.

Em Viotto ripping through Bundadung.
While some may have written the day in Tathra off because it was bookended by brand new trails in Eden, the trails around the small beach town left the field with ear-to-ear grins.
The final for the elite men came down to a bunch sprint.
Bad day to be a beer at the Tathra Hotel.
Jon Odams forgot to go grocery shopping before the race, so he’s in search of dinner.

Stage 2 | Eden | The main course

Coming into stage two, nobody knew what to expect. Dover and McGuire had spent months trying to design a course to introduce Eden to the world, but only McGuire had been on the ground to ride it and make sure it would live up to the hype — talk about pressure!

“It’s bloody hard to put together a course that isn’t open yet, there are so many logistical challenges. But the reality was that on Sunday morning, everyone is going to go out there and have a crack,” says Dover.

Kicking off with a brutal 10km climb to break up the field, riders were rewarded with an 8km descent on a wilderness trail.

Tali Lane-Welsh was all smiles at the start of stage two. Little did he know he was wearing a big yellow target on his back.
A bit of friendly banter on the start, probably about how excited they see what Eden has to offer.
After a brutal 10km climb, the riders had the best of Gravity Eden ahead of them, including a pair of descents down the 8km wilderness trail.

“That 10km was such a challenge, all on fire road; really rocky pinch climbs, some really sketchy descents, gravelly sandy. We made that first 10km such an epic challenge, but the payoff was just crazy. Once they turned into that singletrack, they had the best of Eden Mountain Bike Park in front of them for the remaining 30-odd-km,” says Dover.

The course had some changes about a month out as Contour Works and the Eden Mountain Bike Club weren’t comfortable with the race heading down a few trails that needed more time to cure. This meant the race would hit the 8km adventure trail, tentatively named “Around the Outside” twice.

“That became the highlight that people got to ride it twice. The first time I rode it marking the course, I was thinking that I’d love to ride it again. And when the riders got back around, Peta Mullens summed it up best when they got back there, you knew it was 10km all downhill to the finish line, and people were really able to enjoy it the second time,” he says.

With all the climbing today, it was actually an e-Biker, Ryan Dixon, who would cross the line first, nearly 30 seconds ahead of Dan McConnell, who won the stage, followed by Kyle Ward and Jon Odams.

Straight down to business and into the brutal ascent to the top of the park.
The course did, however provide a pretty epic reward for that big climb.

Samara Sheppard, Katherine Hosking and Peta Mullens went one, two, and three again for the second stage in Eden, locking in the GC.

Tali Lane-Welsh came into the final stage wearing the leader’s jersey with a target on his back, and Ward, McConnell and Odams did everything they could to pop him — and succeeded in that goal. With that, he fell down the GC ranking to sixth, with Ward winning the overall and McConnell and Odams rounding out the podium.

According to Dover the second descent on the wilderness trail was a highlight as folks had another chance to ride what was a crowd favourite trail, but it the second time around it also meant the climbing was over.
Ward on the hunt to test Lane-Welsh’s legs.
Eyes on the prize. Sheppard would hang onto the leader’s jersey and win the overall GC, meaning she and her husband Ward would both stand on the top step of the podium. Talk about a fast household. 
Racing is tough, but there at the end, everyone is friends and stoked to be out there riding together.

The Warrior Crown

However, The Quad Crown isn’t just about the elites. The Warrior Crown is awarded to folks who outride the handicap set in the Prelude based on average speed over the course of the two stages. At The Orca, Grahame Smith and Jordyn Hassett were the latest Quad Crown royals to be coronated.

“Incredibly, Jordyn rode to her handicap within like a minute across all three stages,” says Dover.

Jordyn Hassett managed to ride more or less bang on her predicted stage times based on the handicap system the Quad Crown team uses for the Warrior Crown.

She’s in a team, but I’m not sure she’s the top rider. When she won, the whole team just went nuts. It was really lovely, and I suppose it’s a good example that the Warrior Crown gives everyone something to ride for no matter where they are at,” says Dover.

Finishing the event on a high, Dover gave high praise to the Eden Mountain Bike Club, the Tathra Mountain Bike Club, Contour Works and the management company that’s looking after the trails for their support in making this event what it was.

And with that, the Quad Crown team now have their sights set on Newcastle for the finale to the series, The Black Pearl. Dover didn’t give too many hints as to what the course would look like, however, it’s safe to say they know how to put on a stage race here.

Stay tuned for a full course preview.

With Eden done, it’s on to Newcastle for The Black Pearl

Photos: Murray Farrell / Creek Run Media

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