Port to Port is a Real Family Affair

22 May 2019

The introduction of teams racing in all Epic Series Oceania events has guaranteed closer and more dramatic racing and it has also opened up a range of exciting opportunities and new challenges for riders.

Mountain biking is a close knit community but the iconic Port to Port (23-26 May) has become even more of family affair with siblings (like the Harris, Nankervis and now Ward siblings) teaming up to tackle the four day MTB stage race in Newcastle and the stunning Hunter region.

Wollongong based brothers, Kyle (27) and Jayden Ward (22) are another highly credentialled family team who are determined to use their outstanding riding ability and close personal knowledge to good use.

While older brother Kyle is playing catch up with his training after a break touring Jordan and Egypt with his partner and fellow rider Samara Sheppard, Jayden has had his shoulder to the wheel determined not to let the family down.

“I raced at Reef to Reef with Samara and that was the first time moving to the team format and we really enjoyed that. Now the plan is to give Port to Port a nudge with Jayden.”

“Although it wasn’t a team race specifically at Cape to Cape last year, there were a lot of tactics within friendships. Having someone like Jayden was beneficial to my goal in the General Classification. He also knew that I could be handy leading him out to win a stage. We played a few tactics like that and we worked quite well together. So, at Port to Port I have asked Jayden to team up.”

“Going into Port to Port this year it is really cool because we already have the fundamental aspects of a successful team, knowing a little bit about each other’s strengths and weaknesses. So that is really exciting for me, although for the first time in a long while I feel like I am going into the race a little under done.”

‘"fter a big block of training for Oceania and National titles in April and a two week holiday off the bike I needed someone to get me back into it. Jayden has been motivating me to sharpen up for the event,” Kyle said.

Kyle said that in teams racing there are three important criteria to meet to have any chance of success.

“First it is important to ride with someone you are willing to ride with for four days, secondly someone you are allowed to ride with in terms of sponsors but then finally you need to find someone who can help contest for victory.”

“It is not about how fit the best rider in the race is, because they have a partner. Effectively you are only as fast as your second rider. Team racing I have done in the past is all about protecting the second rider’s weaknesses and making sure they are not exposed. So it will be very interesting racing for the entire event.”

“Jayden and I are very similar in our attitude towards racing but very different to each other in what brings the best out of us on the race track. Jayden is driven to be in front and be the winner and I am more patient and calmer. That is why I think with stage racing is going to be exciting because it is about pairing with someone who the opposite to you, so you can share your strengths over the four days.”

“Port to Port and Cape to Cape have established themselves as the iconic mountain bike events in the country and in many ways they are the “pseudo” Australian Championships.  I think the teams will bring new life into this type of stage racing. While the prize pool is welcome, I think the series will attract the riders who are not necessarily looking to make money out of the sport but are looking for a different reward. A reward for all their hard work and effort.”

“These races are also opening up the opportunity to race Cape Epic in South Africa which is not only a racing goal but a life goal to tick off. With Cameron (Ivory) and Brendan (Johnston) going over has inspired a whole lot of Australians to take their mountain biking outside of our country and exploring somewhere new,” he said.