Port to Port MTB - Stage 3 (Awaba/Watagans)

The start to day 3 was a bittersweet one. I arrived at today’s start point, Cooranbong Park, to another disorganised chaos of parking. No one was directing well, it seemed all the parking was full, people were yelling, organisers were yelling, it was unpleasant at best. To top it off, it’s also freezing and I’m here early to get my bike looked at by the mechanic as the bottom few gears were not shifting correctly at the end of yesterday’s stage. Upon getting to the mechanic and seeing a huge queue, I decide to adjust the gears myself and get it working pretty quickly so it's on to the race.

It’s a lovely park to start the race from, but with the beautiful tall trees comes large segments of shade with only a few beams of sunlight shining through, each filled with cyclists in lines trying desperately to warm up on the coldest start so far. I have a hot coffee, keep my puffer jacket on until the last possible minute and start the race, little to know what horror awaits me around the corner.

I know I’m riding a bit slower than planned, so I seed myself at the very end of my wave (the green dot, roughly middle wave of the pack). Barely 2km in to the race I find my gears are once again giving me trouble, so I stop and have to spent a good 10 minutes adjusting them until they appear to work properly, only to get back on the bike and stop again 500m later. By this point the next wave has caught up with me and by the time I get the bike working again I find myself in the middle of the purple dot wave, the one after mine!

This is where we hit my favourite singlet track at Awaba state forest. The bittersweet symphony continues as I’m enjoying riding the track but constantly slowing down, stopping or getting off the bike because I’m now riding with riders significantly below my ability level. I give everyone their space but while my legs appreciate the slightly slower pace, the lower technical ability is a bit of a downer on my ride. On the plus side at least my gears are somewhat operating correctly! That is until I reach the big climb at the end…

This climb is massive and continuous, but at least it's on a wide dirt road with plenty of places to overtake, and I do. I see a lot of comradery on this ride, particularly on this stage while I am back with some of the slower riders. I want to make particular mention of a team of 2 riders I saw where one was physically pushing the other up the hill as they rode. I managed to snap a quick photo, but they continued to do this the whole way. My goal for next year- get a teammate!

About half way up, my gears are once again failing me and I find myself constantly adjusting the tension of the shifter on the handlebars with one hand, while still riding with the other, until *clunk*. Something on my bike made a noise and it feels like something is rubbing against my back wheel. I immediately jump off my bike to find that my rear axle has come out of one side of the frame and the weight of the bike is on the rear brake instead. Although this is annoying I breathe a sigh of relief, because a) it’s a good thing I stopped immediately or I could have done serious damage to the bike, and b) I now know why I couldn’t get the gear shifting tension right as the axle had gradually unwound constantly changing the cog alignment! I tighten the axle and adjust the gears one last time, it's probably cost me 40 minutes of race time all up, but the problem is fixed and I get to ride the remainder of the stage with a properly working bike!

The rest of the ride is fun, but tiring. I come in very late at 4:21:41 and feel significantly worse for wear. The final stage tomorrow is a much easier ride and should be a lot of fun… so long as I can still feel my legs in the morning!