The Port to Port mountain bike race will return to the Hunter for a fifth year in May but for the first time Port Stephens, which has traditionally been the first stage of the event, has been excluded.
The Hunter Valley has been brought forward as the opening stage of the race, which this year will feature two Lake Macquarie-based rides. The final stage will be a ride through Glenrock to Newcastle.
Organisers of the Port to Port did not respond to the Examiner’s inquiries about why Port Stephens had been left out this year.
Port Stephens MP Kate Washington said she was “gutted” when she heard that the first “Port in the ‘Port to Port’” was no longer happening.
“Mountain biking is growing rapidly in popularity and offers great opportunity for Port Stephens to expand our tourism offering, whilst also getting more locals active,” she said.
“The Port to Port race is a missed opportunity this year, but we now need to look at what we need to do to get the race back again.”
Ms Washington said that, after weeks of trying, she made contact with organisers of the mountain bike race to discuss why Port Stephens had been left out.
From the talks, Ms Washington learned that a significant factor in the event not returning this year was the problem in gaining further access to the area’s national parks.
“I’m keen to facilitate discussions with National Parks and Wildlife Services, Ironman who now runs the Port to Port, local mountain bike riders and possibly Port Stephens Council, so we can develop a plan to create amazing mountain bike trails in Port Stephens,” Ms Washington said.
The Port to Port drew hundreds of riders, plus their supporters, to Nelson Bay each year for the opening stage of the event, which has been running since 2013.
While it was the shortest stage in the event at about 35kms, the Port’s course was not easy, taking riders from Nelson Bay, through Tomaree National Park to the infamous Three Bears at Anna Bay and back again.