The Quad Crown Black Pearl in Newcastle marked a thrilling end to the 2023 series. This event evolved from the popular Port to Port race and offered an opportunity to explore the diverse trails in the area, blending challenging races with a strong sense of community and social events.
Newcastle is also the home of the Flow Mothership, so obviously, Mick was in attendance in his finest party shirt to partake in some of the racing action. The weather gods put together a heater for the weekend with the average temps hovering around 35ºC.
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Prelude: A Gentle Start at Glenrock
The journey began at Glenrock, with a 9km loop that allowed riders to ease into the weekend, complete with scenic waterfront views and climbs.
The ride featured scenic waterfront views, natural singletrack, jumps and meandering climbs, perfect for easing into the event.
However, Quad Crown isn’t your average weekend group ride, and folks were here to send it. In the elites, Kath Hosking and Dom Paolilli put down the fastest times.
This pair was not here to mess around with Hosking tying the Strava QOM on Snakes and Ladders — earning $500 smackeroos in the process — and taking five QOMs through the stage. The girl was flying!
With so many Port to Ports raced here, in the lead-up to the event, Course Designer Liam McGuire wondered aloud if Cam Ivory’s 2014 KOM and the fastest known time on this segment would stand. Turns out ol’ Cam put down a heater on that day, and even he was unable to best it today.
With Hosking laying down the fastest time for the ladies, Kath McInerney was hot on her tail, finishing six seconds back, and Holly Lubcke came third about two minutes later.
Dom Paolilli led out the men’s field, local hero Caleb Agostino was in pursuit, crossing the line two seconds back, followed by Dan McConnel with another seven seconds to make up.
“Post-race, the atmosphere at Modus Brewery was lively and welcoming, where participants shared their excitement and expectations over a range of local beers. We snuck in a dip at the Merewether Baths, ahead of a couple of hot days on the bike,” Mick said.
Stage 1: The Grit and Beauty of Awaba
For Stage 1, Awaba Mountain Bike Park and the Watagans presented a demanding yet rewarding challenge. Known for its diverse terrain, the 40km queen stage included a formidable climb (walk), testing the limits of every rider.
However, the subsequent descent through the Biraban trail was a reward in itself, offering a thrilling ride through the lush rainforest and down a sweet, flowing descent. The park, set to host national titles next year, proved its mettle as a premier racing venue.
Again, the riders were not here for a leisurely jaunt in the woods; it was full revs in the heat. The two Kaths duked it out through the stage, finishing with one second between them, Hosking in front of McInerney, with Caitlyn Brazier moving into third overall ahead of Holly Lubke.
For the men, it would be the Big Mac himself, Dan McConnell, who would take the stage victory; however, big props to David Harris from the e-MTB category, who came second overall in ‘full turbo mode’. Cam Ivory rolled into the finish about 30 seconds behind McConnell, with Caleb Agostino rounding out the elite podium.
With another hot day in the bank, it was off to the local beer haus Grain Store to refuel for the series finale.
Stage 2: Discovering Newcastle’s Mountain Biking Gems
The final stage was a 37km journey through the heart of Newcastle’s mountain biking scene. Starting at the Royal Crown, the course traversed Glenrock, Whitebridge, and Redhead, showcasing the area’s best trails. The clever route design by McGuire hitting the best parts of each riding spot.
McConnell would make it a hat trick for the weekend, with Domenic Paolilli just off his wheel, followed by Caleb Agostino and cementing the overall general classification in the same order.
For the ladies, McInerney would outfox Hosking to take the stage win. Unfortunately, the two-second gap was not enough to steal the leader’s jersey, and Hosking would take out the general classification. Ella Menigoz came third on the day, however, Holly Lubcke had built enough of a gap to secure the last step on the podium in the overall.
What makes the Quad Crown the Quad Crown is that the racing isn’t just about the elites at the pointy end, and the big award is, of course, the Warrior Crown. Every rider is eligible for this accolade, and it’s based on a handicap set from your average speed during the prelude. The rider who outrides their handicap by the most is awarded with the Warrior Crown.
For The Black Pearl, Katrina Skellern and Adrian Azzopardi are the newly coronated Quad Crown royals.
Quad Crown returns to its roots
With such strong roots in Newcastle, it’s a fitting end for the inaugural Quad Crown Series wrap-up on the trails here. After having to call off the first year due to the pandemic and then the weather, the crew behind the race has pulled together a fantastic series.
“This event was as much about the people as it was about the race. Witnessing Blake, my friend and neighbour, a newcomer to the sport, with plastic flat pedals fitted to a loaner bike, a chill $20-ishK Yeti SB120, complete the race was a testament to the event’s inclusive and encouraging atmosphere. It was heartening to see him, along with his beautiful family, celebrate this personal milestone. Go Snake.” Mick said after the race.
The Black Pearl event encapsulated the essence of mountain biking in Newcastle – a blend of challenging trails and a warm, welcoming community. As we anticipate future events, including the exciting Omeo stop, the Quad Crown series continues to be a great event catering for a wide variety of riders. The 2024 dates are going to be announced soon; stay tuned, folks!
Photos – Gilbert from Outer Image Collective & Flow MTB