MTB Stage Racing is at home in Cairns

9 August 2018

Eighteen months in the making the inaugural Reef to Reef made a dramatic entrance onto the Australian sporting calendar with Smithfield’s brutal climbs, glorious descents and event  camaraderie,  receiving unanimous praise from the hundreds of riders saddling up for the first of four days exploring the trails of Tropical North Queensland.

The honours in the General Classification after the stage one time trial at Smithfield MTB Park in Cairns went to the southerners Brendan Johnston and Jon Odams riding in the men’s teams, Kiwi champion Samara Sheppard in the mixed teams and local riders Nathan Sandford and Sarah White in the solo category.

Working in perfect harmony over the tough and rewarding 20km looped course, the GIANT/SHIMANO team of Johnston/Odams were the only riders to break the elusive hour barrier. Despite having never ridden together before they used their respective strengths to carve out a phenomenal display that threw down the gauntlet for the remaining three stages.

“The pairs racing is different. I was saying to Jon before the start that a time trial on its own is hard to pace, so it is doubly hard when you have two riders trying to pace it correctly. I think we did an awesome job of it for our first ride together. We just enjoyed it and didn’t take the climbs too seriously and Jon is fast on the descents, so it was enjoyable for me to follow, see where he goes and try and keep up.”

“We timed it and paced it pretty well. I didn’t hold Jon up too much on the down hills and he certainly wasn’t holding me up on the climbs. We are looking forward to a few days, rolling out with the other teams and the battles, it should be a good vibe,” Johnston said.

Odams was equally delighted with innovative team category and the introduction of four day stage racing to Cairns.

“Pairs racing brings another element of knowing your riding partner and how they ride and it makes it interesting to know your advantages against the other teams and particularly in time trialing like we were here. You are not pacing off a group or another pair. It was really interesting and I was enjoying it. I lead the first bit and Brendan lead the climbs and it worked really well.”

“It is great to have another four day stage race and I think it is heading towards the future of MTB, having bigger more spectacular events that are awesome on the bike and off the bike as well,” he said.

Local rider Nathan Sandford kept the flag flying for Tropical North Queensland but he wasn’t convinced that the local knowledge was any real advantage.

“It was max effort over the back and Germans Driveway was a killer. Once you got the top it was a quick descent and rolling pinches all the way so you really couldn’t do anything but be at max I don’t think.”

“I am a local so I know these trails but there were some new sections, so even for locals it was a little bit unknown but I had a fair idea what was coming up. I am not sure if that is good or bad if you know what is coming, sometimes it is better not to know.”

Sandford, a Cairns fireman, said Reef to Reef was a tough but welcome return to mountain biking for himself and a real bonus for the region and its youngsters.

“I do a lot of MTB and triathlon. I have been away from MTB for a few years but I have the bug back. I like this stage for day one. It was technical and a good advantage for the real mountain bikers. You couldn’t just show up here as a roadie with a massive engine and gap everyone because there is too much technical riding for that.”

“I have never done a stage race before and as far as it goes for Cairns I think it is great. Distance isolates us to a lot of things and the national type races are long travel for us up here. So it is great to have a race like Reef to Reef up in the region. Glen Jacobs and those guys started mountain biking all those years ago and the tradition is being carried on in Cairns. Mountain biking is massive up here with the kids,” he said.

Australian MTB legend John Waddell, riding in the solo category was delighted to be in the warmth of Tropical North Queensland, part of a new event and catching up with new and old friends.

“I am glad to get day one out of the way but it really was so much fun hanging out in the trees of Cairns. There was a lot of climbing but it was worth it for the downhill. Once you got over the climbs it was time to have some fun.”

“The great thing about Reef to Reef is that everyone can stay in Cairns, ride together with likeminded people for four days having a good time and just letting the ‘Good Time Roll’,” he said with a contended smile.

Reef to Reef Stage One


Team GC - Male

Pos      Cat                  Name                                                  Time                Stage 1           

1          Men                 Jon ODAMS (100-2)                           0:59:40            00:59:40                                   

2          Men                 Brendan JOHNSTON (100-1)               0:59:40            00:59:40                                   

3          Masters           Rohin ADAMS (144-1)                        1:03:14            01:03:14                                   


Pos      Cat                  Name                                                  Time                Stage 1           

1          Mixed              Samara SHEPPARD (143-1)                 1:05:32            01:05:32                                   

2          Women            Anna BECK (109-2)                            1:14:22            01:14:22                                   

3          Women            Briony MATTOCKS (109-1)                  1:14:23            01:14:23


Solo Stage 1


Pos      Cat      Name                                                              Time

1          Open   Nathan SANDFORD (2128)                               01:02:53

2          Open   Jeff RUBACH (2127)                                        01:05:33

3          Open   Ben ILES (2112)                                             01:05:55


Pos      Cat      Name                                                              Time

1          Open   Sarah WHITE (2145)                                      01:13:07

2          Open   Teresa NOBLE (2142)                                     01:20:14

3          Masters Sam STEVENS (2207)                                   01:25:05