Reef to Reef the New MTB Tradition

27 July 2018

Home to the UCI Mountain Bike World Championship in 1996 and 2017 and the iconic Triple R, Cairns has earned itself the reputation as one of the premier MTB locations on the planet. Building on the World Championship legacy and continuing the region’s tradition is the latest addition to the domestic MTB calendar the four stage Reef to Reef.

One of two course managers responsible for the stunning, diverse and challenging Reef to Reef trails is local MTB club member Frank Falappi, who attributes discovering the joy of mountain biking to his wife.

“I asked my wife if I could buy a motor bike to race moto cross and she said ‘No’, so I asked if I could buy a mountain bike and ride and she was happy to go along with that and here I am,” he laughed. “That was in 1994/95 when I was in Townsville I bought a rigid bike and just used to ride around the trails around the back of my place. I ran into some local riders in town who were riding out the back of Mt Louisa. At that time I didn’t even know the World Championships was on in Cairns but there seemed to be all these guys into it and I thought it was great. It wasn’t until I moved to Cairns in 1997 that I realized what I had missed.”

“From about 1998 onwards I got involved with the Cairns Mountain Bike Club as a member and a rider and I would go out on trail days and do social rides. That sort of continued until 2009/10 when somehow I got conned into becoming club President and that lasted till 2016 till I handed that baton over to Craig (Nissen). We got really motivated and set some big goals and ended up with two World Cups and the second World Championship, our trails rebuilt and MTB parks springing up all over the region. It was a really good time and it is just keeps getting better.”

The local MTB community has been keen to keep the momentum and further cement the region’s position and Frank sees the inaugural Reef to Reef as an important next step and is delighted to be involved.

“This is something that this area has been wanting for years and people have talked about creating our own four day stage race. We all had a vision that the World Champs would leave a legacy, that was missed in 1996, I don’t think the powers that be understood the passion and the culture that mountain biking has in the area, what it could do for them and how local tourism was being invigorated by mountain biking around the world.”

“When the crew from IRONMAN walked in and said they were going to create Reef to Reef we were excited and we knew we had to be a part of it. This is what we were looking for, this is the legacy we wanted, this is what we wanted to evolve from hosting the World Championships and the World Cups to remind people about Cairns and encourage them to return.”

“We have such a diverse and beautiful area to ride. I live in Mt Molloy now which is where stage three and four are and we switch from rural cattle farms and within a blink of an eye, literally a blink of an eye, you ride down a trail and it turns into dense rainforest. This sort of stage racing is perfect because it really markets our region to those people who want an adventure and want to go and ride and enjoy what Tropical North Queensland has to offer,” he said.

Frank said the Reef to Reef courses are deceptively tough but loads of fun and an incredible journey around the region.

“It will be diverse, it will test you, it will be technical but it will be inviting. The whole area just keeps inviting you to keep going. You are riding along and you are constantly wondering what is around the next corner, what is going to happen next.”

“I think the teams racing is great. When you think about the opportunities around qualifying for Cape Epic I think It is a fantastic thing. I have ridden solo and I have ridden teams and found teams just as, if not, more enjoyable because it was a shared experience. The team dynamic is really good and it has always added to the fun of what I have done. You can MTB on your own but it is not as near as much fun as when you drop into the same descent or ride through the same piece of trail with someone else and then talk trash about the day’s riding over a beer.”

Working as a course manager (with current club President Craig Nissen) hasn’t allowed Frank as much time to train as he would like but he gets great satisfaction in providing trails that have the riders beaming with delight.

“I haven’t done as much riding as I would like too. My riding has been contained to one hour slots on the bike here and there with the odd long ride that trashes my legs. I have been out riding, stopping, looking at areas I need to tidy up or need to mark differently or where I am going to have marshals, just fine tuning, cutting sections out, putting new sections in, re-mapping sections to see if it flows better things like that. I have been getting a little bit of fitness out of it but I haven’t been training specifically.” 

“I can’t really speak for Craig but I do know he gets a lot of satisfaction, as do I, in putting on a good event and seeing the riders enjoy the event. ‘Did you have fun? Yes, you did then that is all I really care about. The fact that they rode it, they talk about it and can’t stop talking about it, that is how we know they appreciate it and that’s awesome.

Frank does always stress to the riders of the importance of saying thank you to the team of volunteers as they ride past.

“The vollies are the hard workers and the backbone of every event. I get to do stuff and ride around trails and that sort of thing but the vollies are asked to stand in the middle of nowhere just so other people can ride past them laughing and having a great time. Some of them would love to be out there themselves but they also get a similar sort of satisfaction seeing the riders enjoying themselves,” he said.