The Organisers have been successfully delivering the popular Cape to Cape in Western Australia (23-26 October) for years and this was the inaugural event in Eastern Australia. The event proved a great success but heavy rainfall the night before Stage 2 turned a small section of the course into deep mud and could have been avoided. The next day, the course was altered and shortened and this proved to be an excellent decision. The organisation is bound to improve in future years.
For Australians this is an easy event to participate in, with the race taking place just 160 km north of Sydney. Transport by car takes two hours, and there are rail and bus options available. Newcastle Airport is just 25 minutes from Newcastle City Centre.
4 days: $
In late May, the weather tends to be around 18-22 degrees. In 2014, we started and finished the event with sunny, warm days but a night time downpour before the second stage resulted in wet, muddy conditions for Stage 2 and 3.
The first stage is fairly flat but there are a number of tricky sandy sections. The second and third stage are in the Hunter Valley Wine Region, with Stage 2 being very hilly. The fourth and final stage is fast and a lot is ridden on bike tracks in groups. The beach section is quite long and challenging to ride and will require a thorough bike service after the event.
The standard at the pointy end of the race was high with some of Australia's top elite riders (Andy Blair and Jenny Faye) competing. The motto of the race organisers is 'it's a ride not a race' and the event is aimed at being fun and challenging.
The iconic scenery of Port Stephens, Newcastle and the Hunter Valley incorporates world-class wineries, stunning beaches, ocean baths, arts, culture, gourmet food and boutique accommodation. Day 1 starts and finishes at Port Stephens, Nelson's Bay, Day 2 and 3 take in the views and wineries of the Hunter Valley and Day 4 moves from Lake Macquarie and finishes at Nobby's Beach Reserve.
Unlike other stage races, the accommodation is organized by individuals and this means that riders are only together for the duration of the race itself. On the other hand, most of the riders compete regularly against each other and so there is the usual amount of camaraderie found in all local events.
The Port to Port is a very good event, which will continue to develop and grow in the future. Australian riders looking for an introduction to stage racing, which is fairly cheap and accessible, should look no further than this event.
My intention is to race all over the world in as many Mountain Bike Stage Races as possible and to provide a 'one-stop' profile of all these races for other riders to make an informed decision about where to compete in the world.