Day 4: Cams Warf - Nobby's Beach
What a Difference a Day Makes
The iconic route was scheduled to start at Cams Warf with a 60 metre climb up a rutted walking track, along Lake Maquarie waterfront, several bike paths, fast fireroad, the mountain bike trails of Glenrock and into the finish at Nobby's Beach Reserve. Just like Port to Port's sister event, the Cape to Cape, in Western Australia, there would be a challenging beach section, which was sure to be where the race for category positions would be won and lost. And so it proved...
After the initial chaos of the dirt climb, where Mike Blewitt was forced to withdraw with a sliced sidewall, we were forced to jump logs beside a fence, the landowner not being able to locate the key for the gate the night before! I found myself with a group including Imogen Smith and John Elliott. We motored along the bike paths on the waterfront of Lake Maquarie, where locals stood aside in awe although one old guy yelled that this was not a race track at every passing group. Normally, he would be correct, but today there was a war of speed unfolding. At a tricky chicane, John Elliott was able to power away and bridge across to the group in front. Perhaps he thought he could make up the seven minutes he trailed in our category. I decided to bide my time, aware that the true test of the stage was lurking around a few more corners.
Riding the wooden boards onto the beach, we scampered across to the slither of hard sand, riders jumping aboard their machines and initiating the crossing up the beach. At the start line, we were advised to keep our weight back and off the front wheel, and I was fully focused on achieving this goal. The first waves hit us and most riders abandoned their quest to ride and started the long push up the beach. I stoically remained on my steed, each wave slowing my forward momentum, but as the water ebbed away, I was able to regain motion. At times, the sand seemed to solidify, and I made the most of these times by increasing my pedal rate. I was amazed at how much time I was making up as I passed rider after rider, either walking or running but very few, apart from the elites ahead in the distance, still cycling. I passed John Elliott early, his bid to close time on me evaporating. Dave Tattis, Craig Barnes, Alex Kooijman, who was barely a minute ahead of me in overall time and Richard Peil, who had a more comfortable lead and was third in Masters 1 after the first three stages. The water continued to crash against my bike, and I knew that a total bike re-build was a necessity after the race in order to remove the corrosive salt water. I ploughed on in the knowledge that I would surely repair the damage of yesterday's stage and challenge for a more favourable finishing position.
Not being used to spending so much time out of the saddle, my legs started to cramp. Just another problem I needed to deal with. I took the last sips of fluid and powered on. I was with Emily Parkes and her TORQ teammate, but also Trek Racing's Richard Piel. As we neared the finish, I launched a sprint and managed to beat Richard to the line, taking a rare victory over my Masters rival.
My 5th place (Masters 1) on the day, was enough to catapult me over Alex Kooijman, who was to finish over two minutes behind. My intention was to finish in the Top 5, so 4th place (and 34th overall) was extremely satisfying, particularly considering the calibre of the competition. Stu Adams, Stephen Billington and Richard Peil, made up a quality Masters 1 Podium.
Without doubt, the Port to Port is a sensational event, that was extremely well organised and had some great trails and landscapes, wonderful locations and unique features. With only a little tweaking, future events will become an essential racing adventure for all levels of rider. I will certainly be back next year.