$12M Funding for Epic New 200km Trail in Central Australia

Woah, woah, woah! Did you just say $12 million? That’s correct. The NT government is getting behind mountain biking, big time, with the Red Centre Adventure Ride, an ambitious new project that promises to be one of the most unique mountain bike experiences on the planet.


What does mountain biking in Central Australia look like? Watch our Ride the Red Centre vid below! 


Sunrise riding in Central Australia is bloody perfect.

The Red Centre Adventure Ride will be a 200km multi-day trail through the West MacDonnell National Park, some of the most spectacular terrain in Australia.

The ride will showcase breathtaking natural features and sites including the West MacDonnell Ranges

We’ve been fortunate to spend plenty of time in this part of the world, both on the bike and hiking the Larapinta Trail which follows the West MacDonnell Ranges, and the idea of riding our bikes through this ancient, beautiful landscape is magical. This could be a life changing trail, no doubt about it.

Read below for the official word from the Northern Territory government. We are very, very excited about this!

The West MacDonnell Ranges are seriously dramatic.


In a huge show of support for Central Australia tourism, an additional $12 million will be allocated from the Territory Labor Government’s record $103 million plan to Turbocharge Tourism to open up new adventure cycling tracks in the Red Centre.

Ormiston Gorge, in the West MacDonnell National Park.

Minister for Tourism and Culture, Lauren Moss said the funding will create a new tourism asset called Red Centre Adventure Ride and the project would be done in close consultation with traditional owners and key stakeholders.

Minister Lauren Moss, centre, at Telegraph Station with Jacqui Schapel and Paul van der Ploeg.

Today’s mountain bike plan is the 2nd project announced as part of $56.24 million allocation for tourism ‘infrastructure’.  “The Territory Labor Government is Turbocharging Tourism to attract more visitors, create local jobs and put more money into the pockets of Territorians,” she said.

“The Red Centre Adventure Ride will allow us to compete with other iconic mountain bike trails nationally and internationally – it will attract this growing tourist market to Central Australia and give other visitors another great thing to do.

It will be more than 200 kilometres of pure outback adventure and build Central Australia’s global reputation for mountain-biking.”

The $12 million to develop the new trails will create local jobs and business opportunities through the construction phase and ongoing once finished. The more than 200 kilometres of tracks will link the Alice Springs Desert Park to Glen Helen in Tjoritja/West MacDonnell National Park, creating a unique trail adventure for riders of all skill levels.

“The Red Centre Adventure Ride will be Australia’s best outback multi-day ride which will help increase tourist numbers and that means more jobs,” she said. “The ride will showcase breathtaking natural features and sites including the West MacDonnell Ranges which are currently inaccessible for mountain bike riding.

“Cultural values and stories will also be a key element of the experience, with opportunities for Traditional Owners to share their knowledge. The new trails open up opportunities for tourism operators to offer high-end, fully-supported guided tours, self-guided tours or luxury ‘glamping’.


“New purpose-built campgrounds will also be created to give riders the chance to sleep under the outback stars in the iconic West MacDonnell Ranges.”

Ms Moss said this project will complement the popular Alice Springs Mountain Bike track network which we previously announced is due for further expansion this year with new trail work on the west side of Alice Springs connecting up to existing trails in the Alice Springs Telegraph Station Reserve.
All works will be done in consultation with Traditional Owners, Central Land Council and the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority.

To learn more visit www.turbochargingtourism.nt.gov.au.

Easter In The Alice: Early Bird Entries Closing Soon

Mountain biking in Alice Springs, really?

Easter in the Alice is the best way to explore one of Australia’s most unique and frankly under-rated mountain bike destinations; hundreds of kilometres of single track is accessible literally a few minute’s ride from the centre of town, the landscape is one of the most stunning you’ll ever see, you’re practically guaranteed blue skies, and the riding is fast and furious.

We’ve visited Alice Springs numerous times now, exploring the endless trails, soaking in the serenity of being in one of the most amazing places in Australia. Take a look below!

What is the Easter in the Alice? 

Easter in the Alice is a three-day cross-country stage race, 31 March – 2 April 2018, taking in the best trails that Alice Springs has to offer. The event is an official stop for the MTBA National XCM Series too. You can race just one stage, or do them all, or there’s the Easter Mini too, for those who don’t want to tackle the longer distances.

Interestingly, the Easter in the Alice has over 30% female entrants! That’s more than twice the average mountain bike event. We put it down to just home welcoming the race environment is – the Alice Springs crew know how to run an event with a friendly vibe.

The format is very family-friendly too. All the racing takes place in the cool of the morning, so you’ve got the rest of the day and evening to see what this beautiful part of Australia is all about.


Why enter now?

If you enter before the end of the year, you’ll save a full $50 off the regular entry price. Three days stage racing for $140, that’s a bit of a bargain. All the details are right here.

National XCM Series returns to Alice Springs

Lasseters Easter in the Alice will again host round 1 of the National XCM Series in 2018 as part of Australia’s most iconic annual 3-day Stage Race. Ride in the cool of the morning and spend the rest of the day relaxing around the pool or taking in the incredible sights of Central Australia.

“one of the best XCM courses I have done.” – Justin ‘Mad Dog’ Morris

With over 200 km of tracks around Alice Springs you’re never more than a few minutes from the best tracks in the country.

“…when you are putting together an XCM course you often have to bolt together ordinary bits to get to the good bits. This is where the Alice Springs XCM course differs. Every bit is there for a reason and they all come at exactly the right time during the race.” – James Downing

Details can be found at www.easterinthealice.com.

The Redback Race Wrap

Over 180 mountain bikers from across Australia tested themselves on the technical trails and rocky single-track over the six stages which included 40-50 kilometre cross country racing, the ANZAC Hill Climb, an individual time trial and the 22km Night Race.

After maintaining a stranglehold on the competition, it was down to the final stage today between Canberra’s Henderson and local rival Chris Hanson, but a puncture with 10kms to go causing Hanson to lose valuable time meant Stage 6 and the winners jersey went to Henderson in a total racing time of seven hours, 42 minutes and 26 seconds. Alice Springs’ Ben Gooley was overall runner-up in a time of 7:58:14 and Hanson took third (8:02:14).

Men’s winner, Ben Henderson, up to speed under the blue skies of Alice.
Imogen Smith, always a fixture at the fast end of women’s MTB racing, takes the overall win.

Want to check out more of the riding in Alice Springs? Watch our full feature vid below:


“It’s a big relief actually, anything can happen out there in the sand, and the rocks, as it just showed. I was just trying to find that balance between keeping the pressure on and not taking too many risks; you’ve really got to concentrate 100 percent out here,” Henderson said.

“In a good way, Chris has stopped me from enjoying it too much, I’ve felt under pressure the whole time, I’ve had to make sure I’ve stuck with him. I was a bit nervous after the second days’ time trial, I lost a bit of time, and the legs were starting to hurt, but I made a bit of time back on the night stage, and that helped the confidence, and from then on I was just making sure I was glued to Chris’ wheel.

“These four days here were testing from start to finish. It was so well-organised and the tracks were amazing, I think the locals have done an awesome job. It’s a unique race this one, it’s got a really good vibe, and obviously coming out of the Canberra weather, is definitely a bonus, it’s perfect, I really love this race.”

Kim Willocks, 2nd in the women’s racing.

In the women’s competition it was a race between Brisbane’s Imogen Smith who is only recently back racing after a serious injury, Victorian Kim Willocks and up-and-coming junior Zoe Cuthbert from Canberra.

Despite losing today’s Stage 6 to Cuthbert, Smith was happy to walk away with the overall win in a total racing time of nine hours, 1 minute and 59 seconds. Willocks settled for second in 9:10:18 and Cuthbert took third in 9:17:59.

Rising star, Zoe Cuthbert,

“It’s been a really special four days. I really didn’t expect to win, but after the first day, I thought maybe this will go my way. I really focussed on just trying to enjoy things, and not put pressure on myself; coming back from injury it’s a bit more about rediscovering your love for the sport, and the people in it,” Smith said.

“After the night stage when I lost a lot of time but still had the lead, that’s when I thought I’ve really got to knuckle down now and just try and put the jandle down a bit on Stage 5, and just try get into the lead, get some confidence, and then sort of ride the wave from there. I didn’t put pressure on myself, and I think the results kind of flow from that.

The most unique landscapes you’ll ever race in.

“Kim’s a really classy athlete, and Zoe is a huge, huge talent, and so you can never relax, and the other thing out here is that it’s so rough and so rocky and everything is sharp, so you’re never far away from a mechanical, or a flat tyre so you never quite relax, until you cross the finish line at the very end.”

Race Director Sam Maffett from Rapid Ascent congratulated all riders on their participation and for helping make it such a successful week of racing.

“It’s great to see the riders get to know one another over the week and the camaraderie that builds between them. I think everyone’s realised that Alice Springs is a superb and spectacular riding destination and we encourage them to come back and ride again.”

First held in 2008 – the race formerly known as the Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2017, taking place from 17th-20th of August in and around Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory.
For more information about The Redback head to theredback.com.au

The Club at the Heart of it All

Another standard Alice Springs morning on the trails.

Mountain biking has a long history in the Red Centre. Alice Springs might no be the biggest town but they boast a hugely passionate, dedicated rider base. Back in the early 2000s cycling disciplines were grouped together as part of the Alice Springs Cycling Club. As time went on each discipline forged its own way and mountain biking came to have its own dedicated organisation called the Alice Springs MTB Club. ASMTB were pivotal in building much of the trail as it is today and running the local races. Original members including Ken Napier, Tim Hill and Matt Gadsby were on the shovels from the start, shaping the sandy, rocky terrain west of town to create what would become a trail network of almost 200km of flowing, fast singletrack.

As you approach Alice from the air, you start to see the terrain features building. It’s a unique landscape in which to build trails, with little vegetation your imagination is the only real obstacle.

Jump to 2010 and the club took on the Central Australian Rough Riders title that morphed into the CARR-Alice Springs MTB Club as it is today. Boasting a membership of over 140 riders and working closely with the Northern Territory Government the club has driven the groundswell in popularity in mountain biking via trail development and events. Their website is also a wealth of information when searching for trail maps and loops to explore. Paul Darvodelsky is the current President of the club and a hugely passionate rider. He’s ridden bikes all over the world and still rates his home trails as the best by far.

Riders prepare to roll out for Stage 3 of the Easter in the Alice.

One of the largest races run by the club each year has to be Easter in the Alice. Held over the Easter weekend and taking in 140km of single track and trail its is a key draw card for elite athletes and avid recreational cyclists alike.

The race is based out of the historic Telegraph Station on the banks of the Todd River. Almost like a grassy oasis it’s a perfect spot to grab some shade under one of the huge gum trees and also a perfect place to roll off the start line to get those legs pumping.

Telegraph Station, on the north side of town, is the central hub of mountain biking in Alice Springs, with the majority of the formalised trail network.

Competitors spend three days covering varied distances and terrain; 75km, 24km and 37km for the three consecutive stages. The 2017 had Stage One double as a round for the National Marathon Series, demonstrating the caliber of trail there is to cover. The Second and Third stages dish up the contrast, ranging from technical, rough terrain back to the flowing, fast and sandy single track there was plenty of fun for everyone regardless of your riding preference.

In addition to this flagship event there are many others to come and try your hand at. The club is working very hard to offer a calendar of events that cater to all abilities and types of mountain biking to foster riders wanting to compete in a very social, fun atmosphere.

Northern Territory Minister for Tourism, Lauren Moss, discusses the importance of mountain biking to the local Alice Springs economy with media at Telegraph Station.

There’s a very strong commitment to the future here which is evident not only from the Government’s recent commitment to fund trail development, but also on a much smaller scale when you see young riders being shown the ropes on the grassy rollers by their elite counterparts.

The CARR Alice Springs MTB Club has a really healthy junior scene – there are loads of young riders coming up through the ranks.
It’s a long drive to Alice Springs from the east coast, but the locals will make you feel welcome.

If there’s one thing that these events and the club have been truly successful at is showing that Alice Springs is a place where you will be welcomed to ride. There’s an underling sense of acceptance of how far it is to travel here so everyone wants you to have a good time. Whether it’s their favourite trail to shred, the best way to avoid a flat tire or the one trail that looks the most spectacular at sunrise, everyone will offer up their advice.

So whether you like racing or just coming to a new destination to explore by bike, make sure that Alice Springs is on the list. It’s so unique that you would be hard pressed to find such quality riding in a more spectacular setting.

Alice Springs: A First Timer's View

There’s a bit of a funny saying in Alice Springs, that you’re as far away as you can possibly get from Australia’s beaches, but you’re equally close to every one of them. Well there might not be any waves to catch but you’ll be so captivated by the beauty of the outback you’d never notice.

It was the first time Paul and Jac had visited Alice Springs, and like most first-timers, the reality and their expectations were two completely different things.
Ridgelines, rocks, and stunning views. Alice Springs isn’t the pancake flat dust bowl that many people seem to envisage!

Travelling from Hobart I couldn’t get much more of a contrast arriving in Alice, the traditional land of the Arrernte (pronounced Arunda) people. Mountains make way to sandy rolling flats; dense rain forests are replaced with a sky that never seems to end. The warmth of the sun and air hit as you step off the plane, which was only surpassed by the friendliness of the locals as you roll into town.

Travelling from Hobart I couldn’t get much more of a contrast arriving in Alice

There’s 200km of trail around Alice Springs, with plenty of rock features to keep it technical.

I was here to catch up with Paul Van der Ploeg and the Flow crew to explore the vast network of singletrack that Alice Springs has to offer, and get amongst what has become a must do on the race calendar, the Lasseters ‘Easter in the Alice’. This three-day stage race weaves riders through a huge chunk of the 200km of single track that can be found less than 10 minutes from the centre of town.

The stunning rock of Ellery Creek Big Hole.

Before I got down to racing it was off to experience just a tiny snippet of what the Northern Territory is so famous for, so we bundled into our 4WD and headed to the West MacDonnell ranges.  Apparently, when these ranges were in their infancy they were taller than Mt Everest. Today they still create a dramatic scene climbing out of the flats, so distinct in their form from anywhere else in Australia. Our boxes to tick for the day were Ellery Creek Big Hole and Ormiston Gorge. Both of these beautiful swimming holes are less than a couple of hours from town, a perfect way to wind down after a day on the bike or just as a great day trip for the family.

Sunset over Alice are pretty magical.

Both of these spots were just breathtaking, there is something about the outback that makes you somehow ‘feel’ just how old it is. The colours of the rock change with the sun, from a vibrant red to a blue as the evening creeps in. The calmness of the swimming holes with the wildlife just as relaxed was a great way for us to take stock of just how beautiful it was. To keep things nice and Australian I was also informed by a local that the crocodiles were ‘only small’, and would only bite ‘a bit’ – followed by the biggest grin you’ve seen. Classic.

Getting up early for the sunrise here is always worth it. The air is cool, and the colours are brilliant.

Making our way back to Alice we got to see the sky put on a show for us. People will tell you that the sunsets here are some of the most spectacular in the world but from experience, it’s probably best to witness it with your own eyes, as photos will never do it justice. It’s like every colour has been painted in the sky and the darkness is slowly consuming the light to keep it safe for the night.

People will tell you that the sunsets here are some of the most spectacular in the world but from experience it’s probably best to witness it with your own eyes, as photos will never do it justice.

Exploring the east-side trails with some Central Australian Rough Riders locals.

Even though it was getting towards winter, the midday sun still packed punch so morning and evenings were the best time to ride. It was hard to not get stoked on riding at sunrise, between shredding the awesome trails and watching the sky go through almost every colour in a pack of Derwent pencils it was just incredible. One evening we got to hang out with some of the local MTB club members, the Central Australian Rough Riders and scope out some more of the trails that were to be used in the race.

The club scene is strong, and there’s a big contingent of junior riders too, most of whom took part in all three stages of the racing during the Easter in the Alice.

The crew were so friendly and welcoming, Paul Darvodelsky the club president is a passionate rider with a wit dryer than the outback sand, and he was on hand to give us a bit of an idea of what to expect.

Telegraph Station is the main hub for all the riding in town.

Making our way out from the Telegraph Station, the rock slabs and technical features kept us on your toes, and it was easy to see how those with an affinity for holding power through rolling hills would do well in a place like this. Helmet, Kym’s and Hell Line were just some of the trails that were standouts, not just for how fun they were to ride but also the view of Alice and beyond they offered.

Stage 3 racers roll out through the old Telegraph Station.

The race itself is more of a slightly painful way to experience the trails and surrounding outback, but a great opportunity to compete in something quite unique. There was an opportunity to race the third stage of Easter in the Alice, and I use that term loosely but race I did. XC racing is more of a distant memory these days and whilst it’s common knowledge that the best Enduro riders are just as fit as XC athletes, my current fitness sits in neither of those categories. So sat astride my trusty Roubion I got swept up in the dusty peloton and ended having a nice chat to riders as we played leapfrog across the trails. As an added bonus I even got to see a Dingo trot past the trail, which was the icing on the cake.

The tough finish line sprint across the sandy bed of the Todd River.

True to form the race finished in what might be the most Alice Springs way ever, by riding through the sandy banks of the Todd River through the finish line and to a sausage sizzle. Huzzah! Success! And what a great way to spend a morning mountain biking!

As an added bonus I even got to see a Dingo trot past the trail, which was the icing on the cake.

Unfortunately for me, that was the end of my Alice Springs adventure. Time to pack my bike and put on all my clothes at once and start my travels back south to frosty Hobart.

Flying away from Alice Springs over the vastness of central Australia it was easy to know that I’d be coming back to ride more of the trails and travel further into the outback. One visit isn’t nearly enough, so see you again soon Alice Springs!

Alice Springs: A First Timer’s View

It was the first time Paul and Jac had visited Alice Springs, and like most first-timers, the reality and their expectations were two completely different things.
Ridgelines, rocks, and stunning views. Alice Springs isn’t the pancake flat dust bowl that many people seem to envisage!

Travelling from Hobart I couldn’t get much more of a contrast arriving in Alice, the traditional land of the Arrernte (pronounced Arunda) people. Mountains make way to sandy rolling flats; dense rain forests are replaced with a sky that never seems to end. The warmth of the sun and air hit as you step off the plane, which was only surpassed by the friendliness of the locals as you roll into town.

Travelling from Hobart I couldn’t get much more of a contrast arriving in Alice

There’s 200km of trail around Alice Springs, with plenty of rock features to keep it technical.

I was here to catch up with Paul Van der Ploeg and the Flow crew to explore the vast network of singletrack that Alice Springs has to offer, and get amongst what has become a must do on the race calendar, the Lasseters ‘Easter in the Alice’. This three-day stage race weaves riders through a huge chunk of the 200km of single track that can be found less than 10 minutes from the centre of town.

The stunning rock of Ellery Creek Big Hole.

Before I got down to racing it was off to experience just a tiny snippet of what the Northern Territory is so famous for, so we bundled into our 4WD and headed to the West MacDonnell ranges.  Apparently, when these ranges were in their infancy they were taller than Mt Everest. Today they still create a dramatic scene climbing out of the flats, so distinct in their form from anywhere else in Australia. Our boxes to tick for the day were Ellery Creek Big Hole and Ormiston Gorge. Both of these beautiful swimming holes are less than a couple of hours from town, a perfect way to wind down after a day on the bike or just as a great day trip for the family.

Sunset over Alice are pretty magical.

Both of these spots were just breathtaking, there is something about the outback that makes you somehow ‘feel’ just how old it is. The colours of the rock change with the sun, from a vibrant red to a blue as the evening creeps in. The calmness of the swimming holes with the wildlife just as relaxed was a great way for us to take stock of just how beautiful it was. To keep things nice and Australian I was also informed by a local that the crocodiles were ‘only small’, and would only bite ‘a bit’ – followed by the biggest grin you’ve seen. Classic.

Getting up early for the sunrise here is always worth it. The air is cool, and the colours are brilliant.

Making our way back to Alice we got to see the sky put on a show for us. People will tell you that the sunsets here are some of the most spectacular in the world but from experience, it’s probably best to witness it with your own eyes, as photos will never do it justice. It’s like every colour has been painted in the sky and the darkness is slowly consuming the light to keep it safe for the night.

People will tell you that the sunsets here are some of the most spectacular in the world but from experience it’s probably best to witness it with your own eyes, as photos will never do it justice.

Exploring the east-side trails with some Central Australian Rough Riders locals.

Even though it was getting towards winter, the midday sun still packed punch so morning and evenings were the best time to ride. It was hard to not get stoked on riding at sunrise, between shredding the awesome trails and watching the sky go through almost every colour in a pack of Derwent pencils it was just incredible. One evening we got to hang out with some of the local MTB club members, the Central Australian Rough Riders and scope out some more of the trails that were to be used in the race.

The club scene is strong, and there’s a big contingent of junior riders too, most of whom took part in all three stages of the racing during the Easter in the Alice.

The crew were so friendly and welcoming, Paul Darvodelsky the club president is a passionate rider with a wit dryer than the outback sand, and he was on hand to give us a bit of an idea of what to expect.

Telegraph Station is the main hub for all the riding in town.

Making our way out from the Telegraph Station, the rock slabs and technical features kept us on your toes, and it was easy to see how those with an affinity for holding power through rolling hills would do well in a place like this. Helmet, Kym’s and Hell Line were just some of the trails that were standouts, not just for how fun they were to ride but also the view of Alice and beyond they offered.

Stage 3 racers roll out through the old Telegraph Station.

The race itself is more of a slightly painful way to experience the trails and surrounding outback, but a great opportunity to compete in something quite unique. There was an opportunity to race the third stage of Easter in the Alice, and I use that term loosely but race I did. XC racing is more of a distant memory these days and whilst it’s common knowledge that the best Enduro riders are just as fit as XC athletes, my current fitness sits in neither of those categories. So sat astride my trusty Roubion I got swept up in the dusty peloton and ended having a nice chat to riders as we played leapfrog across the trails. As an added bonus I even got to see a Dingo trot past the trail, which was the icing on the cake.

The tough finish line sprint across the sandy bed of the Todd River.

True to form the race finished in what might be the most Alice Springs way ever, by riding through the sandy banks of the Todd River through the finish line and to a sausage sizzle. Huzzah! Success! And what a great way to spend a morning mountain biking!

As an added bonus I even got to see a Dingo trot past the trail, which was the icing on the cake.

Unfortunately for me, that was the end of my Alice Springs adventure. Time to pack my bike and put on all my clothes at once and start my travels back south to frosty Hobart.

Flying away from Alice Springs over the vastness of central Australia it was easy to know that I’d be coming back to ride more of the trails and travel further into the outback. One visit isn’t nearly enough, so see you again soon Alice Springs!

Four Days of Great Racing in Alice Springs, The Redback

Former professional road racer Michael England and Edwina Hughes have been crowned the champions of The Redback 2016, the six-stage, four day mountain biking stage race in Alice Springs across arguably some of the most amazing courses in the whole of Australia.

Redback Rapid Ascent stage 21 08 2016

The field heading into the ninth year of the event (formerly the Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro), was a mix of elite, top and aspiring riders including Specialized Australian MTB team member Shaun Lewis (2013 runner-up), two time Olympic triathlete Courtney Atkinson, Cannondale’s James Downing, local junior champion Luke Pankhurst and Tasmania’s Alex Lack.

IMG_9494

As expected Alice Springs dished up plenty of sunshine across the four days of racing, and even some rain and thunderstorms today making the racing brilliant with tactics coming into play for those chasing or protecting general classification rankings.

Gladstone’s Michael England (33), race leader on an accumulated time of 09:12:49 said he had expected a big challenge, but had been working hard the last few months to get fit.

Luke Pankhurst Alice Springs Night Race Stage 4
Luke Pankhurst Alice Springs Night Race Stage 4

“It’s great to come out with the win, I expected a good placing, but you’re always unsure as to how everyone else is going,” England said. “I was keen to go well in the time trial; that was always going to be a decider, because there was an opportunity to make a lot of ground in riding well, as opposed to a mass start.”

England said he knew the sort of terrain and single track he was up for, but being shorter stages compared to the marathons he is used to, was quite excited to see how his body would go.

Michael England.
Michael England.

“It went pretty well, it’s all about recovery, straight after each stage; my main tactic was just don’t lose time.

“Road (racing) was a job, it was full time, and I’ve now got family, and I work full time. Mountain-biking’s a great mix; obviously the commitment’s there to bit fit, at the pointy end of the field but it’s good fun.

“I really enjoyed it; it’s been a great event to attend, it’s the first one for me, so yeah I’m really happy with how everything’s gone.”

Shaun Lewis (35, ACT) claimed three stage wins, but couldn’t make up the time lost with a broken chain 20 metres from the start of Friday’s Stage 4, to hold his position as leader in general classification. Lewis’ Stage 6 win today earned him the Tavis Johannsen Memorial Trophy.

P1140291

“It’s been a very fun week, very enjoyable, and lots of fun. I’m very happy, apart from mechanical issues, which is part of bike racing. Normally snapping a chain only costs you two or three minutes to fix, but being right at the start of the race, you’re stuck behind all the traffic, but that’s all part of it. After the damage with mechanical, I just tried to win stages; that was the best I could do for the week.

“I really enjoyed the racing when it was close; it was pretty nail-biting to the finish which is good. And I thought the format was really good overall.

“The young guys are riding really well, Luke Pankhurst and Alex Lack; I was quite impressed by seeing him ride, his skills in the singletrack are really good, so when he was up the front he made it really quick, and a lot of fun; that made it pretty exciting.”

The lead on the women’s side of the draw was held tightly from the get-go by Tasmania’s Edwina Hughes (32), who out of the blocks claimed Stage 1, and backed it up with wins in Stages 2, 3 and 6 to win overall (10:38:36).

“I’m unbelievably happy, it was such a fantastic race, and to come away with the win is just the icing on the cake,” Hughes said.

Edwina Hughes, overall female winner.
Edwina Hughes, overall female winner.

“I felt pretty good coming into it, I was definitely quietly confident, but you never know coming into these things, how it’s going to go, and had luck on my side, with no mechanicals. For the first few stages, I just rode as hard as I could, and by the end of the second day I felt pretty comfortable with my lead, so I felt all I had to do was keep an eye on second place, and hope for the best.

“The trails were incredible, absolutely amazing; proper mountain biking trails, it just felt so wild. It was one of the friendliest races I’ve ever done; it was a really nice feeling out there on course. I’d love to come back, it was an amazing experience.”

Race Director John Jacoby from Rapid Ascent said the racing had been really good, with some exciting sprint finishes.

“We had beautiful riding conditions; a few warm days, but others sunny, with a cool breeze, and the perfect temperature,” Jacoby said. “Luke Pankhurst, overall junior winner was up there with the opens, and junior Zoe Cuthbert as well. The veterans and the masters categories were also super competitive; they were posting some really good times.

Michael England.
Michael England.

“They all loved the course, there are some great tracks out there, and the final stage today was probably the favourite; it captures some of the best bits of singletrack that Alice has to offer. It’s always great to finish on such a high. Thank you and well done to all riders.”


 

RESULTS:

 

The Redback General Classification

1 – Prime (18-39) – Michael ENGLAND (5) – 09:12:49

2 – Prime (18-39) – Alex LACK (7) – 09:13:36

3 – Veteran (40-49) – Chris HANSON (3) – 09:14:39

 

The Redback General Classification Female

1 – Prime (18-39)   – Edwina HUGHES (321) – 10:38:36

2 – Junior (Under 18) – Zoe CUTHBERT (12) – 10:56:01

3 – Veteran (40-49) – Georgina LANDY (139) – 11:05:19

 

For more results: CLICK HERE – Multisport Australia – The Redback
http://www.multisportaustralia.com.au/Home/QuickResults?clientId=1&raceId=1617&culture=en-US
EVENT DETAILS:

  • 18-21 August 2016 – Alice Springs, Northern Territory
  • 4 days, 6 stages:
  • Central Communications Stage 1 – 40km Cross Country Race – Thursday (AM)
  • Rapid Ascent Stage 2 – 300m ANZAC Hill Climb – Thursday (PM)
  • Endura Stage 3 – 22km Individual Time Trial – Friday (AM)
  • NT Tourism Stage 4 – 22km Night Race – Friday (PM)
  • Lasseters Stage 5 – 50km Cross Country Race – Saturday (AM)
  • Chifley Alice Springs Resort Stage 6 – 45km Cross Country Race – Sunday (AM)

Website: www.TheRedback.com.au

Twitter: @Rapid_Ascent #TheRedback

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rapidascentevents

Alice Springs and The Redback Prove To Be a Winning Combination

Australia’s most legendary mountain bike stage race The Redback presented by Ingkerreke Commercial concluded over the weekend.

The Redback provides four days and six stages of some of the most inspiring mountain biking Australia has to offer, racing along the jaw-dropping trails around Alice Springs, Northern Territory.

Ross_Alexander

The event has been running for eight years and has seen a revamp this year with the new name The Redback and a condensed race format. The six stages are extremely varied, offering up stunning 40-50km cross country stages through to a 22km night race and a 300m climb up Alice Spring’s Anzac Hill

Over 200 mountain bikers from across Australia took part, from the elite to the weekend warriors and everything in between.

The 43km Chifley Alice Springs Resort Stage 6 finale started with a 1.7km circuit through the streets of Alice Springs under a police-escorted peloton before heading out onto the trails. Riders were treated with some superb single track including a brand new section of trail, Stimpsons Track on Undoolya Ridge.

Craig_Cooke Michael_Milton_and_Grant_Johnston Terri_Rhodes P1080727 _CLE6728

The stage, and the event, concluded on the lawn beside the Todd River at the historic Telegraph Station, adding to the overall travel experience for the interstate riders.

Craig Cooke was once again victorious, finishing in a smashing time of 1 hour, 51 minutes. Two minutes behind him was Ben Hogarth in second place and then 15-year-old local young gun Luke Pankhurst in third.

In the women’s event it was a close race between Holly Harris and Terri Rhodes with Holly proving just too strong and taking the stage win by 37 seconds. Anna Beck from Queensland finished in third.

After four days and six stages of intense, challenging and interesting riding, it was Ben Hogarth from South Australia and Holly Harris from NSW who finished as clear winners at the top of the leader board.

Holly_Harris Ben_Hogarth

The total time for Ben Hogarth was 7 hours, 47 minutes. Behind him was veteran rider James Downing in 7 hours, 59 minutes, followed by Craig Cooke from WA in 8 hours.

“I loved it today, there’s a lot more single track in the event now and the new Stimpsons Track today was awesome, it’s so nice and flowy,” said Ben Hogarth.

“It’s a great event. I’ve done other stage races in Australia and this is by far my favourite, I’d definitely recommend it. I love that you can ride to all the starts and finishes, so there’s less logistics to worry about.

“And the riding here is like not like anywhere else in Australia, it’s really cool,” Ben Hogarth said.

Holly Harris finished The Redback after 9 hours, 1 minute of riding, over 6 minutes ahead of second placed Terri Rhodes. Third overall female was Kim Willocks from Victoria in 9 hours, 52 minutes.

“I loved today, it was awesome and a good way to finish the event. Today was my favourite stage, the trails were awesome and I was smiling the whole way,” said Holly Harris.

“This is my first visit to Alice Springs. I’ve ridden all over the world and I’ve never seen anything like this, it’s pretty breathtaking.

“The quality of the trails is pretty awesome and there’s so much of it, you can just keep going and going and not ride the same bit.

“The other riders are just fantastic; everyone is super friendly and is out there to have a good time so it’s been really good, I definitely want to come back,” Holly said.

Well done to all competitors who took on the Alice Springs outback trails at the 2015 condensed version of The Redback.


STAGE BY STAGE:

Stage 1 – NT Major Events 50km Cross Country Race – Thursday (AM) 

Male winner: Craig Cooke 01:36:09
Female winner: Holly Harris 01:50:18

Stage 2 – Ingkerreke Commercial 300m ANZAC Hill Climb – Thursday (PM) 

Male winner: Luke Pankhurst 00:00:44
Female winner:
Holly Harris 00:00:59

Stage 3 – Schwalbe 22km Individual Time Trial – Friday (AM) 

Male winner: Craig Cooke 00:51:23
Female winner: Holly Harris 01:00:31

Stage 4 – Cyclecover 22km Night Race – Friday (AM) 

Male winner: Craig Cooke 00:53:27
Female winner: Holly Harris 01:03:09

Stage 5 – Lasseters Hotel 50km Cross Country Race – Saturday (AM) 

Male winner: Ben Hogarth 02:27:51
Female winner: Anna Beck 02:56:55

Stage 6 – Chifley Alice Springs Resort 45km Cross Country Race – Sunday (AM)
Male winner: Craig Cooke 01:51:32
Female winner: Holly Harris 02:07:41


FULL RESULTS:

Click here to view all results from the event.

The feedback on the event overall has been really good, from both local riders and interstate visitors. This is what they’ve had to say.

Craig Cooke, from Western Australia, finished 3rd overall

“It’s a lovely part of the world and the volunteers did a fantastic effort to make it really enjoyable for everyone; it was really good fun and good variety in the stages.

“The local trail builders have been doing a fantastic job to create such a wide network of amazingly varied trails that really keep you on your toes; hats off to the locals who have built them. It shows how a few people putting in a lot of hard work over the years can generate such an amazing experience for so many people coming here.

“The night stage was stunning, you had to concentrate pretty hard to see where you were going but to see the trail of 200 lights of the other riders going through the bush was pretty spectacular.”

Mary Pickavance, from Ballarat, Victoria

“It’s beautiful to come up here for some sunshine and dry trails. I’ve wanted to do this event for a long time and I’ve been really enjoying it. I particularly liked the night stage, it was very unusual riding and quite awesome.

“I came early for the event so I could have a look around Alice Springs and then I’m going to squeeze in a hot air balloon ride on Monday morning before I fly home.”

Leonie Thom, from Queensland

“The single track is just divine; it’s been an amazing event. I came up early to practice on the trails and take photos and see the scenery and I’ve loved it.”

David Speakman, from Alice Springs

“It’s been an awesome week, we love it. I rode trails today I’ve never ridden before. It’s awesome having so many visitors here. I’ve been sharing snakes, lollies and stories with other riders during the race and they just can’t believe how good the trails are here, they’re blown away.

Debbie Rogers, from Warrnambool, Victoria

“The night race was definitely my favourite stage; I’ve never done any night riding before and I had a ball. The event atmosphere has been great, I’ve loved it. Back at the accommodation you get to mingle with everyone and kick back by the pool.”

Check out the photos highlights from the event on the Rapid Ascent Events Facebook page.

 

For further information on the event visit theredback.com.au

 

 

Must-Ride: Alice Springs, NT

Flow Nation - Alice Springs 7

Like most people, when we first heard whispers of world class riding in the arid heart of Australia, we were dismissive, but curiosity got the better of us and we’re glad it did. We took the three hour flight from Sydney, leaving behind a miserable winter, and found ourselves in the most unique, ideal mountain biking environment that Australia has to offer.

Flow Nation - Alice Springs 6

It’s not extraordinary that mountain biking exists in Alice (desert towns the world over have healthy mountain bike scenes, just look at Moab or Fruita), but what is incredible is the quality and sheer quantity of trails around town. There must be literally hundreds of kilometres of riding out there, if you know where to look. Previously you needed a local’s helping had to get around the trails of Alice, but thankfully finding desert gold getting easier, with the recent formalisation of trails around Telegraph Station seeing proper signage at trailheads and junctions for the first time. From these professionally built trails, it’s easy to link up rides further afield, with singletrack worming its way across the the landscape at all points of the compass.

Flow Nation - Alice Springs 14

Given Alice’s population base, it’s impressive just how active the local club is. The Central Australian Rough Riders are a hyperactive bunch; when they’re not working with land owners to secure trails, they’re running events or petitioning MTBA to get their town onto the National Series Calendar. It takes serious determination to lure complacent east coast riders away from home, but the Rough Riders’ Easter in the Alice Muster event now attracts mountain bikers from across the country, and next year the event will be combined with a round of the Marathon National Series too, which should open even more eyes to what’s on offer in Alice.

Flow Nation - Alice Springs 26

The accessibility of the riding around Alice is a key part of its appeal. The only transport you need to worry about is getting from the airport into town, after which it’s no more than a 10-minute ride to the trails in any direction. Accommodation providers get it too, and an increasing number of hotels and apartments are billing themselves as mountain bike friendly; we stayed at the Alice on Todd apartments, where bikes are so welcome we’re surprised they didn’t get given their own beds.

Flow Nation - Alice Springs 13

Weather wise, there are parts of the year when mountain biking is pretty much off the cards – you wouldn’t want to be on the trails much after sunrise in the peak of summer – but Alice is at its best when large parts of the country are at their worst. Throughout winter you can bet the bank on 28-degree days, cloudless blue skies and the most spectacularly clear nights imaginable. Even though the middle of the day is prime for riding, you’d be mad not to get up early for at least one sunrise, it’s magical watching the ridge lines change from the cool grey of the pre-dawn to an absolute explosion of reds and oranges as the first sun rays hit. Time your trip right and you might even catch the desert in bloom. Seeing the wild flowers come to life in the desert is a pretty amazing experience.

Flow Nation - Alice Springs 10

While at first glance the terrain around Alice all looks pretty similar, once you’re into the trails, it’s a different story. Riding in the desert throws up constantly changing terrain and surfaces too; the trails are an evolving, engaging mix of rock, quartz, sand, shale. Dodging potential side-wall slicers and floating over high-speed sandy patches becomes part of the fun. Luckily the almost complete absence of scrub means you’ve got visibility for miles, so you can always let it run and you’re rarely caught out.

Flow Nation - Alice Springs 16

Flow Nation - Alice Springs 25

If we had to put our finger on what makes Alice Springs riding so appealing to us, it’s that it offers an experience that is uniquely Australian. The baking desert is one of the elements that characterises Australia – it’s the ying to the yang of the surf and beaches – but it’s the last place many of us explore, especially not on our bikes. One of mountain biking’s charms is the places it takes us and what it allows us to see, and we promise you, you’ll never have seen mountain biking in quite that same way as Alice delivers it. Check it out.

Flow Nation - Alice Springs 22

Tested: Merida One Twenty 7.900

Merida’s new trail bike, the One Twenty picks up some considerable revisions for 2015. This honest, no-frills ride skips all the mumbo jumbo marketing spiels, and delivers a fun and efficient ride, and for a very fair price.

This shiny blue Merida was our companion for a couple solid rides on the absolutely incredible trails of Alice Springs where the terrain around town is brimming with fun, scenic and challenging singletrack. Riding out in the red centre of our big continent is harsh on body and equipment, so if your bike is not up to the task you’ll know about it. Suffice to say, the Merida came out the other side with two big thumbs up.

Merida One Twenty 7.900 25
An honest and reliable trail bike, ready for anything.

[divider]Build[/divider]

Yep, as the name clearly suggests the One Twenty has 120mm of bounce out back, with a 130mm FOX fork leading the way up front. The number 7 denotes the 27.5″/650B wheel size, and this is all an attempt to simplify the names of the Merida models for 2015.

The aluminium welders had a field day with this one, there is plenty of neatly finished joints and shapes adorning the all-alloy frame, so there is no doubt the fans of the material or carbon skeptics will find their happy place with this one. New for 2015 is a completely re-designed rear suspension system. The big visible difference to its predecessor is the way the lower shock mount is of the same section of the frame as the chain stays, so when the rear shock compresses the whole shock shifts downwards. This is said to aid the process of tracking the desired suspension curve, for a supple but supportive ride.

Merida One Twenty 7.900 1

Merida One Twenty 7.900 18
The shock floats up and down as is compresses.

Merida One Twenty 7.900 27

A Shimano quick release rear axle holds the rear wheel in very nicely, and mirrors the fork’s super easy quick release axle system. When we see so many different axle systems on bikes these days, especially at the rear wheel, it’s nice to  find one that not only matches the quick release axles both front and rear, it’s also the easiest to use making wheel removal quick and painless.

The paintwork may be a little bit 90s with its sparkling dark blue, and the Merida decals not really attract many oohs and aahhs, but it’s clean and we like the way there isn’t 100 acronyms or fancy engineering names painted all over it.

 

Merida One Twenty 7.900 11
Sweeeeet.

With a refreshing lack of marketing gadgets and acronyms the Merida seems to skirt around the pressure to dazzle potential purchasers, instead they offer a bike with no proprietary suspension parts or specific components. Whether or not this was going to be a good or bad thing, we were to find out when the ride time came.

[divider]Spec[/divider]

Merida took most of the Shimano XT on offer here, with a full kit of Shimano’s workhorse component group fitted to the One Twenty 7.900. We all know how much the mountain bike world loves a pair of Shimano XT brakes, more reliable than a Toyota Corolla and in this case with 180mm rotors, more powerful than a Toyota Hilux. Shifting is Shimano XT, too with a double chainring setup delivering 20 gear options in a huge range, wider than a 1×11 setup.

FSA handle the cockpit with a nicely finished handlebar in good width and a short stem for zippy handling. We were delighted to see the RockShox Reverb Stealth post fitted to a bike of this value, and the internally routed line for the seat post helps to reduce the already very cluttered bike. Mind you, our seat post wasn’t 100% bled properly, and whenever there is hydraulics involved, a quick fix is simply not that quick so we had to put up with a spongy feeling seat post during our testing period. We lamented the simplicity of a cable actuated seat post in Alice Springs.

Merida One Twenty 7.900 20
A RockShox Reverb push button lever controls the seat post, and the Shimano XT brake and shifter are integrated into one clamp on the bar.
Merida One Twenty 7.900 13
It may not a trendy single ring setup, rather a sensible and useable range that won’t leave you without enough gears in any situation.

FOX handle the suspension, front and back with both the fork and shock controlled remotely with one thumb lever. This will most certainly appeal to the rider who locks out their suspension a lot during climbs or on tarmac jaunts, but on the flip side it makes for a mighty busy bunch of cables up at the handlebars. With a bit of time and attention, you could certainly minimise the cable mess by trimming any excess length of cable down.

The stock wheels aren’t going to float if you drop them in the dam, they’re pretty weighty, but super tough and suit this bike’s sting vibe. There’s always going to be room for upgrades to a $4k bike, and perhaps a lighter set of wheels would be a good item for the Christmas gift list.

The real highlight of the One Twenty’s spec is the high level of gear you get for the bucks. The value in this one is high, and in true Merida style.

[divider]Ride[/divider]

It’s a calm and comfortable ride, with a nice and stretched out top tube to open up your position on the bike. With a fairly upright geometry you sit up and over the centre of the bike, creating a suitable body position for climbing and flowing through the singletrack. We quickly became comfortable on the Merida. After spending the days prior to testing on the Trek Fuel EX, the Merida felt a little firmer in the suspension tune and sharper/upright in it’s seating position.

Merida One Twenty 7.900 3
The Merida was a calm ride, settling into long open turns with a relaxed feeling.
Merida One Twenty 7.900 2
Running high tyre pressures to avoid pinch flats wasn’t ideal, so a proper tubeless conversion would be our first change.

We dropped the stem down as low as it could go on the fork steerer tube, but with the headset’s big cone shaped upper spacer, we couldn’t go as low as we would have liked to suit our aggressive riding style, but that’s an easy one to remedy with a raiding of a bike shop workshop parts box.

For a 120mm bike, the suspension felt super controlled and smooth with a firm feel that resisted wallowing and unwanted pedal bobbing. With a quick flick of the lever by your right thumb the FOX CTD (climb, trail and descend modes) fork and shock switches to Trail Mode, which is like a ‘half lock’, good for climbing or smoother trails. One more click to Climb Mode and both ends lock out almost like a rigid bike.

When the trails got faster and wilder we found the limits of the tyres, the tread pattern and compound were fine, it was because we couldn’t run low enough pressures at risk of a pinch flat on the super rocky trails of Alice Springs. If tubeless is not imperative to you, the tyres will be totally fine but we always strongly recommend a tubeless setup on any mountain bike.

Merida One Twenty 7.900 4
The 27.5″ wheels roll with a calm and confident manner.

Merida have matched the geometry to the suspension travel amount perfectly, when bigger travel bikes tend to be slacker and aimed at handling steeper terrain, and shorter travel bikes are for the cross country race track, this 120/130mm travel bike is all about just getting out on the trails and enjoying them in comfort and control.

The big range of gearing served up by the double chainring was a highlight, especially after riding a lot of bikes with SRAM’s 1×11 drivetrain. This will appeal to the rider without years of riding in their legs, or steep climbs at their door. We found ourselves using gears in both the high and low range often, and after a few hours in the saddle those lower gears were a bloody blessing.

Merida One Twenty 7.900 1
Simple, solid and reliable.

[divider]Verdict[/divider]

It’s not an overly flashy ride, with loads of over the top fancy talk, this Merida gets the job done in a calm and honest manner and we respect that. We flowed through the trails in Alice for hours on the One Twenty comfortably and carried great momentum up and down the steeper sections easily. We would have preferred to do away with the remote lockouts in favour of a less cluttered cockpit, but otherwise this well-handling bike is specced in a way that will have it last for years without any fuss or bother.

It’s pretty impressive how much you get for your dollars these days with an aluminium dual suspension bike from one of the biggest brands in the business, don’t look past this one as a genuine trail bike for summer and beyond.

Introducing Our Trek ‘Flow Nation’ Long-Term Test Bikes

Here at Flow, we spend a lot of time exploring trails far away from home as we scour Australasia looking for the best mountain biking the region has to offer. But when we head off on our Flow Nation trips, it’s always a bit of a gamble as to which bike to take with us – bringing a bike that’s too big or little can really hinder your enjoyment of the trails.

Trek Fuel EX Long Term Test 2
The under-the-radar Fuel EX 9.9 29
Trek Fuel EX Long Term Test 22
The look-at-me Fuel EX 9.8 27.5

For our latest Flow Nation trip to Alice Springs (video coming up soon!) we secured two long-term test bikes from the crew at Trek Australia, and we’re happy to have these exquisite machines on hand for all our upcoming travels: the Fuel EX 9.9 29er and the Fuel EX 9.8 27.5.

The Trek Fuel EX series is pretty much the ideal bike to cover you for 90% of the riding you’ll find across Australia. When we selected these bikes from the Trek range, we thought hard about the majority of riding we find ourselves doing when we travel. We needed a bike that was confident and tough enough to handle it when we found ourselves barreling into rock garden on a trail we’ve never ridden before, but that was light and efficient enough for spending the entire day on the bike.

Trek Fuel EX Long Term Test Action 7
The fast-rolling 29er loved the open, high-speed trails of Alice Springs.

 

Trek Fuel EX Long Term Test Action 2
No doubt about it, the 27.5″ wheels love a tight berm to hook into! Early morning on the Wallaby Track, Telegraph Station.
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With 120mm of front and rear travel and agile geometry, the Fuel is a spritely platform that’s well suited to the swoopy flow trails that are becoming increasingly popular across Australia and New Zealand – think Rotorua or Buller, these bikes would eat those trail up! But at the same time, the Fuel is comfortable fighting up a weight division – the Full Floater suspension system is magnificent, and the confident inspiring riding position them a more capable bike in the rough than you’d expect. The build kit on these bikes is ideal for our purposes too, with Reverb Stealth dropper posts to save our bacon when things unexpectedly point down, and tough wheels with great tyres. We place a lot of import on tyres, and the Bontrager range of rubber is amongst the best going now, especially the XR3 and XR4.

Trek Fuel EX Long Term Test 30
We’ve sung the praises of Trek’s Full Floater / DRCV suspension system before many times. It’s super supportive the whole way through the stroke.
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Trek Fuel EX Long Term Test Action 14

Our other option when we were selecting bikes for our Flow Nation trips was the Remedy series, but we’ve found in recent years that the Fuel’s abilities are really starting to bur the line between these two bikes. We first noted this back in 2013 when we reviewed the last edition of the 26″ Fuel EX, which left us amazed at how good the Fuel really was in the rough.

Trek Fuel EX Long Term Test Action 3

With the Fuel EX series now available in both 29 and 27.5″ wheels, we made the call to get one of each, so we could compare the two bikes back to back and assess their relative merits. Trek also offer wheel size variants of the Remedy; some may say two wheel sizes for one model of bike is confusing, but more choice is rarely a bad thing – the two wheel sizes definitely ride quite differently, so it’s cool to be able to pick the one that best suits you.

Trek Fuel EX Long Term Test 27
The RE:aktiv damping system is designed to provide increased stability, but without the harshness encountered with some inertia valve systems.

For 2015 Trek have delved into the internals of the Fuel’s rear shock as well, working with motor sport legends Penske to develop RE:aktiv damping, which is regressive damping system that should greatly improve pedalling and body-weight movement related stability. We’re looking forward to spending more time on this shock and bringing you our thoughts.

Trek Fuel EX Long Term Test Action 8

We’ll be taking these two bikes to Tasmania in just a couple of weeks time, to explore the new trail developments at Hollybank outside Launceston, and to ride Hobart’s vaunted North-South track too. From the dust of Alice, to the cool brown soils of Tassie, we’re certainly getting a good chance to see how these bikes handle a variety of trails in a short period of time!

Trek Fuel EX Long Term Test Action 13
The 9.9 rock clambering above Alice Springs on the Ridge Track.

Tested: 2015 Lapierre Zesty Trail 829

The French are not known for offering much leniency when it comes to their conceptions of what an item should be or how it should be used: “This is a croissant. It is made with butter.” “This is a baguette. It is eaten with ham and cheese.” And it’s fair enough – what the French do, in their very particular way, they do very well. Therefore, it seems particularly un-French, that Lapierre should now offer a choice of two variants of their vaunted Zesty.

Tested Lapierre Zesty Trail 829 38

For many years, the Zesty’s formula has been bang on, so were as surprised as anyone when Lapierre brought out the Zesty in two completely different configurations for 2014. It seemed odd to us that Lapierre would muddy the Zesty’s identity, splitting the range into an AM (all-mountain series) with 150mm travel and 27.5” wheels, and the TR (trail series) with 120mm travel and 29” hoops. But as old mate said, “what’s in a name?” What really matters is how this rose smells on the trail.

Tested Lapierre Zesty Trail 829 4
Alice Springs is one hell of a place to ride, and the ideal place to test a bike from our perspective as there’s so much trail so close to town.

We were fortunate enough to log a few hours on the 2014 version of this bike last year at the Lapierre launch, but we didn’t clock enough trail time for a full review. This time around we’ve grabbed the 2015 model and taken it on a holiday, far away from the depressing Sydney wet weather, out to Alice Springs in Central Australia.

[divider]Build[/divider]

Let’s start with the area that everyone always asks about first: the e:i Shock electronic suspension system. 2015 is the third year that Lapierre have implemented this brainy, automatically-adjusting suspension and we feel that the system has finally reached the level of refinement that will gain it broader acceptance. We’ve had reservations about the e:i system in the past (read about our experiences in our long-term review of the 2014 Zesty 927) but this year it’s a different kettle of fish.

Tested Lapierre Zesty Trail 829 35
The Relay motor can adjust the shock’s compression settings in less than 0.01 seconds.

In a highly abbreviated version, the system works thus: a sensor on the fork and a sensor in the bottom bracket communicate with your rear shock to ensure that it’s using the ideal compression setting for any given situation. If it’s bumpy, the shock is fully open, if it’s smooth/smooth-ish then the shock is either locked out or uses a medium compression setting. If you want to learn more about the detail of the e:i system, watch this video.

Tested Lapierre Zesty Trail 829 34
The e:i system’s battery has been shifted and has changed shape in order to make room for a water bottle. We do wish it was internal though!

What is great about the new version of the e:i system is how much more simple the interface is with the rider, and how much more cleanly it integrates with the bike. The battery (which last for around 24hrs riding) is now offset, meaning a water bottle cage can be fitted (hooray!), and the bulbous head unit is gone. In its place is a small receiver that is fitted with a single LED light to communicate to the rider which setting system is currently in. The sleek incorporation of the new receiver not only looks a lot neater, but it’s far less susceptible to damage too – last year, we unthinkingly flipped an e:i bike upside to fix a flat and broke the display, but that can’t happen now.

Tested Lapierre Zesty Trail 829 32
The e:i head unit / receiver is now much smaller, neater and simpler. The whole display aspect has been ditched too.

As with previous versions of the system, you can opt to leave the suspension in automatic mode (which we highly recommend), or you can select to ‘fix’ it into a medium or locked out compression setting. You also have ability to set the sensitivity level of the automatic mode, which dictates how much bump force is required to disengage the medium/locked-out compression settings. We definitely preferred the most sensitive setting, which delivers the smoothest and most supple ride.

Tested Lapierre Zesty Trail 829 20
The small accelerometer on the back of the fork leg communicates with the head unit to tell the rear shock what the terrain is doing beneath your wheels.
Tested Lapierre Zesty Trail 829 24
The OST system is smooth and laterally stiff, dishing up 120mm of travel.

Looking beyond the electronics, this is a striking, bold machine that’s put together to an exceptionally high standard. The front triangle is carbon, the rear end alloy, which is a construction configuration we’re seeing a lot more of now. The Zesty TR 829 shares the same OST suspension design as is found on the Zesty AM; it’s a true four-bar configuration, with a double row of bearings used for the dropout pivot. The seat stays and chain stays are super robust and widely set, giving the 829 a level of rear end stiffness that evades most 29ers. The downside of this beefy construction is that some riders may experience a little heel rub (especially flat pedal users), but thankfully this wasn’t an issue for us. If you’ve got big feet, or your ride duck-footed, expect to clip your heels.

Tested Lapierre Zesty Trail 829 21
While the rear end is very stiff, the downside is potential heel rub on the seat stays.

The pivot hardware uses massive fittings, and the rear shock doesn’t undergo any rotation at the DU bush, all of which should reduce the need for maintenance. The shock itself is a Rockshox Monarch – there are no FOX shocks currently compatible with the e:i system. Up until 12 months ago, we’d have regarded this as a downside, but Rockshox have truly lifted their game with their rear shocks of late and the stiction that plagued previous Monarch shocks is gone.

Tested Lapierre Zesty Trail 829 27

While the cables are routed internally out of the box, the frame has a full complement of cable stops so you can run the brake and gear lines externally too if that’s your preference. There’s a high level of attention to detail as well, with nice touches like a sag indicator on seat stay, a quality chain slap guard and thick frame protection stickers fitted to the exposed areas of the frame. If we’re getting picky, we do feel that the rear axle is a bit average, as the cam mechanism became very hard to operate once it got gritty after a few days’ riding.

Tested Lapierre Zesty Trail 829 17
While the gear/brake lines are internal, there are provisions for routing them externally should need be.
Tested Lapierre Zesty Trail 829 14
We love the neat, tucked-away rear brake caliper positioning. The rear skewer we’re not fond of – it gets awfully hard to operate when gritty.

[divider]Spec[/divider]

As the second-highest model in the Zesty TR range, the 829 is kitted out with some of the finest offerings that SRAM can muster. Undoubtedly the highlight is the XX1/X01 drivetrain (using X0 carbon cranks), which never seems to miss a beat – not one dropped chain or missed shift, and the gear range is tremendous. The SRAM Roam 40 wheels were a pleasant surprise too; even though they’re SRAM’s more basic Roam wheel offering, they’re super light, tubeless ready and the freehub engagement is speedy.

Tested Lapierre Zesty Trail 829 5

Suspension duties are handled by a Rockshox Monarch rear shock and a SID 120 fork with slick looking Fast Black coated legs.

Tested Lapierre Zesty Trail 829 13
Four-piston Guide RS brakes bring it all to a stop.

The new Guide RS brakes and a Reverb Stealth post complete the picture. One the advantages of the full SRAM ensemble is that the Match Maker system can be enjoyed to full effect, with just two clamps on the bar for both brakes, the seatpost remote and shifter.

Tested Lapierre Zesty Trail 829 12
SRAM’s Roam 40 wheels were a nice surprise! Fast rolling, light and tubeless.

Schwalbe’s new-look Nobby Nic in a 2.25” width handles the rubber duties. The tread pattern of these tyres is greatly improved, with far more stability available when cornering. We do still have some questions about their long-term durability as we did cut the sidewall of the rear tyre, though we were testing the bike in the notoriously tyre-slashing terrain of Alice Springs.

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Match Maker clamps keep the bars clutter free.
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Schwalbe’s new look Nobby Nic is far more predictable than in the past. Big thumbs up.

[divider]Ride[/divider]

Zap, zap goes the Zesty’s brainy shock the moment you turn a pedal stroke and set off into the trail, instantly firming up the suspension when the terrain is smooth or opening it up when it’s bumpy.

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Woohoo! So much singletrack!

It takes just a few minutes of riding before you begin to ignore the noise of the little motor working away and you stop paying attention to the LED indicator telling you which mode the suspension is in. But after those few minutes you begin to realise something… You’re not thinking about your suspension, at all.

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With an XX1 drivetrain the bike is near silent, except for the zapping of the rear shock motor.

Reaching for a lock-out on the shock or hitting a lock-out lever on the bars has become such a standard part of riding a dual suspension bike (especially on longer-travel bikes) that it’s really refreshing to be able to forget about all that and concentrate on just riding, knowing that your bike is as efficient as is ever possible. And it IS far more efficient; there’s absolutely zero unwanted suspension movement.

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With the seat post remote located within easy access of your thumb, utilising the dropper post feels very intuitive.

Ignoring the e:i system, the Zesty TR is a fantastic handling bike in its own right. It’s a really solid frame, not in a boat anchor kind of way, but in a shove-it-int0-a-corner kind of way – the rear end is much stiffer than we’re accustomed to on a 120mm 29er and this brings lots of confidence to the ride overall. Confidence is everything as far as we’re concerned, and this bike has it in spades.

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With its 1×11 drivetrain, the Zesty’s seatpost remote lever is located where your front shifter would normally reside. This seemingly simple setup configuration actually adds tremendously to the ride of the bike. Because the seat post lever is so easy to hit (just as easy as hitting a shifter) we used it much more than usual, dropping the seat an inch for a fast corner, popping it back up for a pinch climb, slamming it all the way down for a jump… In conjunction with the suspension automatically working its magic, we found it really easy to ensure the bike was in the perfect mode for the terrain at any given moment.

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The Zesty’s cockpit is ideal. With a bit of creative taping/zip ties, you could just about make the wiring invisible too.

The top tube and cockpit are nice and roomy too, and our size medium fitted us perfectly. We’re big fans of the long top tube / short stem setup, and the 740mm bar and 80mm stem are ideal. You’re left in a really strong, confident position to really work the terrain or slot into a corner, which is one thing the Zesty does exceptionally well. Once we’d settled on tyre pressures of around 23/24psi, we found the Nobby Nics to be super consistent, with a predictable break-away point on the loose Alice Springs surfaces.

On the whole the SID 120 is well equipped for the job at hand. It’s simple setup and lightweight construction are a highlight, but we’re sure some riders will look to put on something a little more stout, like a FOX 34 or Pike 120mm, as the bike is not afraid of harder riding. In the extremely dusty, arid, gritty conditions of Alice Springs, the fork became a little dry and sticky over the small bumps. The occasional hard compression was needed to keep the seals and legs slippery and lubricated. Chatting with locals, it’s a common story – the dust in Alice is so fine that just about every fork will need more love than usual.

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Interestingly, we noticed that we rarely clipped a pedal onboard the Zesty, even though the bottom bracket height is right where you’d expect it. We put this down to the bike sitting a little higher in its travel as the e:i system kicks in as soon as you start pedalling, raising the bike’s sag point slightly.

If we had to find one area where we thought the e:i system interfered with our normal riding style, it would be in those instances where we put in a fast half pedal stroke to lift the front wheel. Normally when you jab at the pedals and lean back, the bike would sag into its travel a little in the rear, helping the front wheel to unweight. But with the e:i, because the suspension firms up as soon as you pedal, the bike doesn’t sag so much out back, meaning a bit more effort is needed to get the front wheel up. But that’s it, that’s the only instance we could perceive the e:i system as requiring any kind of adaptation from us.

Tested Lapierre Zesty Trail 829 3

Overall:

After some slightly frustrating experiences with the e:i system in the past, we are absolutely thrilled with this bike and the advancements it represents. No, of course you don’t ‘need’ electronic suspension (and no-one’s forcing it upon you), but neither do you ‘need’ traction control in your car, or an electric toothbrush or a 6-megapixel camera on your phone.

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The e:i system does add complexity to the bike, but what this test showed us, is that it actually simplifies the ride. The Zesty TR is a really fantastic bike, with great geometry, smooth suspension and well-thought out component choices, and even the non-e:i versions of this bike would be magnificent. But when you add the e:i system’s efficiency to a bike that’s already this good, you get an amazing machine. Nice work, Lapierre, it’s great to see this system reach a level we’re truly happy with (now, hurry up and make that battery pack internal too!).

 

Alice Springs joins the XCM National Series

Mountain biking in the Northern Territory is set to make its debut on the National Series race circuit.

John Pyper from the Central Australian Rough Riders (CARR) mountain bike club and Mountain Biking Australia executive officer Shane Coppin announced today that the Lasseters Easter in the Alice Mountain Bike Muster will be a part Australia’s National Cross Country Marathon Mountain Bike Series.

The Lasseters Easter in the Alice (LEITA) is a three-day, four-stage mountain biking event that utilises the mountain bike tracks around Alice Springs, NT. It is run by the local mountain bike club, the Central Australian Rough Riders (CARR).

From next year, the first stage of the LEITA will also be the first round of the National Marathon Mountain Bike Series. This is the first time in mountain bike history that the NT will host a round of a mountain biking national series.

Mr Pyper said: ‘This news is huge! It’s massive!’

‘The only other sport to hold a national series event in the NT that I know of is the Tatts Finke Desert Race.’ The Tatts Finke Desert Race, a two-day motorsports event, is part of the Australian Off Road Racing Series.

My Pyper said: ‘Adding Lasseters Easter in the Alice to the National Marathon Series will make our club-run event one the pre-eminent mountain bike events in the country.’

Mr Coppin from Mountain Biking Australia (MTBA) visited Alice Springs in the wake of this year’s LEITA event to discuss the recent mountain biking developments in the Red Centre and to discuss ways MTBA could support and further enhance that development. He was full of praise for the riding scene in Alice Springs and the Lasseters Easter in the Alice event, with its trademark emphasis on participation and Territory-style hospitality.

‘It’s a very active scene,’ Mr Coppin said. ‘There’s a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of support from council and local tourism bodies.

‘JP (Pyper) is a very passionate character, and he and the club are putting on a great event.’

Mr Coppin hopes the NT round of the National Marathon Mountain Bike Series will attract riders of all skill levels and abilities.

‘As executive office of MTBA, one of my goals is to host a national event in every state, to ensure that as a national body, we’re putting on a truly national series, taking mountain bikers to as many points across the country as possible.

‘MTBA recognises the challenges of hosting events like this in a place like Alice Springs. Linking a national series like this to a national holiday gives people a chance to travel to these places and to ride in these events.

‘I encourage riders to travel to Alice Springs to ride in the National Marathon Series and associated events.

‘The quality of the event and the hospitality you will receive in Alice Springs is impressive. I enjoyed my time in Alice Springs,’ Mr Coppin said.

 

About Easter in the Alice Mountain Bike Muster

The Lasseters Easter in the Alice MTB Muster is a three-day, four-stage mountain biking event, plus a kids ride. It is run by the Central Australian Rough Riders (CARR), and it is held in Alice Springs from the Saturday to the Monday of the Easter long weekend.

easterinthealice.wordpress.com

 

To learn more about this, please contact

John Pyper

Race director – Lassters Easter in the Alice Mountain Bike Muster

President – Central Australian Rough Riders (CARR) mountain bike club

[email protected]

Alice in Winter and racing the Red Centre

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The mighty MacDonnell Ranges are always there, looming over you in Alice! The way the scene changes colour as the sun drops is incredible.

Alice in winter

By May, when other parts of Oz are taking a right old beating, in the Red Centre smatterings of summer rain have damped down the dust, and clear blue skies are the general rule until next summer. By May the daytime temperatures in Alice are in the high 20s, and the locals are starting to complain about ‘the cold’. Winter conditions like that put the muddy grey days of winter riding in Melbourne and Sydney to shame. Suddenly flights to Alice for you and your bike start to feel as justifiable as post-ride beers and chips.

Alice Springs locals love their winter riding, and the event calendar reflects that. Alice’s mountain bike club, the Central Australian Rough Riders, runs a marathon, a 6-hour, a 12-hour night race, a three-day Easter stage race and a point-to-point series – and they’re all awesome. But for many interstate riders, Rapid Ascent’s Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro is the drawcard.

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A cloud in the sky during an Alice winter is enough to make the locals stop and stare. You’re almost guaranteed perfect riding conditions, with clear days topping out in the high 20s.

 

The Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro

With seven stages over five days, the Ingkerreke (pronounced ‘in-gear-uh-kah’) is long enough to feel like a break, but not so long that you need more than week off work. Rapid Ascent has been running the Ingkerreke for years, so the event runs as smoothly as your bike does on that first post-drivetrain overhaul ride.

This year’s Ingkerreke attracted some fast elites, with Jo Bennett securing an overall win in the women’s division, ahead of Imogen Smith (second) and all-but-local Jess Douglas (third). In the men’s division, Taswegian past-winner Ben Mather took the honours after fighting off recently returned local Ryan Standish (second) and Veteran class winner James Downing (third – more results here). But one of the things we’ve always enjoyed about the Ingkerreke is that it’s not just a race for the sharp end. The Ingkerreke throws together elite riders, mid-fielders and keen mere mortals for a solid week of awesome riding in a beautiful place.

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Jo Bennet, on her way to another Ingkerreke victory, leading Imogen Smith through the ever-shifting, super-fast singletrack.

In contrast to 2013, which started with rain, this year’s first three days were dry – even us locals had to concede that the surface was a bit loose. As we slogged down the sand on Smith St at the start of stage one, we could practically hear the thoughts of the interstaters, who were trying hard not to dwell on all the suffering they were in for in the week ahead. But the groans transformed into grins at the 10km mark when we hit that Alice Springs singletrack.

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Cloud cover kept the first day cool; on days two and three the sun came out, cranking up the heat and restoring the local advantage. On day four a very un-Centralian rain toned down the heat, prompting the locals to resume their complaints about ‘the cold’. But rain is always good news for mountain bikers in Alice – it packed down that otherwise loose, tyre-swallowing sand and rejuvenated the singletrack in time for the final stage, which rode fast.

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The Ingkerreke’s infamous Anzac Hill sprint climb! A brutal 300 metres, but the view is worth it.

 

It’s all Central-ised

When it comes to logistics, racing in Alice Springs is so easy. Alice is small enough that all seven stages of the Ingkerreke can start within a 10-minute ride of wherever you’re staying, and you’ll be finishing your stages in time to lunch at a café. But if the town is small, its trail network is massive, and growing – it can easily accommodate a week of riding without repeating sections. There’s plenty on the track menu, too, from fast and flowing zip-lines and loose, off-camber turns, to tight, rocky and technical switchbacks and step-ups. You can taste every dish within just a few corners and then find yourself back at the top of the menu again. The riding has a raw backcountry feel that Victoria-based Scotsman Gareth Syme described as ‘like real mountain biking’.

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Singletrack and fire trail

Rapid Ascent used fire roads for early course sections to prevent singletrack congo lines. For the sharp-end, those fire roads were an opportunity to hustle; for the rest of us they were a chance to have a break and a yarn. Indeed, one-time-local Adam Nicholson said he was riding singlespeed because ‘there are more people to talk to in the mid-field’. (Adam spent his fire road time exchanging banter about gear ratios with his friend and fellow singlespeeder / bitter rival John.)

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Imogen Smith, Jo Bennet and Jess Douglas. Alice always attracts a classy, talented field.

Alice Springs’s steadily growing tangle of trails can be confusing to the uninitiated, though some tracks are now officially mapped and sign-posted. With so many new tracks added in the last few years, Ingkerreke vet Ben Mather described this year’s event as ‘a totally different race’ to the year of his previous win, in 2009. But combining a mountain biking visit with an event like the Ingkerreke means you can follow the pink tape through some of Alice’s finest sections of track without worrying about geographic dis/orientation.

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James Downing, Ryan Standish and Ben Mather.

This year’s Ingkerreke covered some of the best trails, old and new, while retaining some iconic sections of fire trail from previous years. And on the nights we weren’t racing, there were things on at the Chifley Alice Springs Resort event base, showcasing some of Alice’s local music talent, including local rider Mick Cafe.

For the full results from the 2014 Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro, jump on in here.

Chris’s parting shot

So what is different about mountain biking in the Alice Springs? A lot has been written about that since Alice hit the radar a few years ago, but here’s my two cents: it’s cross-country riding at its purest. There are no big hills and no long technical descents, just endless undulations, pinches and flowing turns under a big sky. The riding surfaces vary, from hardpack to loose corners to short rockgardens to sand, and a bit of mud if you’re lucky. There’s nothing really nasty to spit you off, and the few serious obstacles have B-lines, but every corner promises something different, something to keep you on your toes.

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Racing: Three days, four stages of racing at elite and grassroots level, in sunny Alice Springs

Having lived in Alice Springs, in Central Australia, for three and a half years now, I’m widely considered a local, though I think of myself as ‘a Kiwi import’. Either way, I’ve been riding the red singletrack on the outskirts of town for long enough to feel quite at home on that techy Alice Springs singletrack, with its loose corners and sharp rocks.

I’ve also been riding seriously for about the same length of time that the Lasseters Easter in the Alice Mountain Bike Muster has been running. Formerly known as ‘the Easter Muster,’ this club-run three-day four-stage event has been growing steadily over the past four years. Put on by my local mountain bike club, the Central Australian Rough Riders (CARR), the Lasseters Easter in the Alice is a grassroots event that hit the big time this year, gathering momentum and support from the wider community in equal proportions.

This year’s Lasseters Easter in the Alice broke records left right and centre for CARR. It attracted the highest number of entries for a CARR club event (97, which ain’t bad for a town of 28,000), and over 40 of those were interstate entries – another record down the gurgler. For me, it was a buzz to see my local riding scene and our tracks afresh through our visitors’ eyes. Race director John Pyper was thrilled too: ‘I just wanted to make an event for that would cater for everyone, so everyone can come to Alice Springs and ride and have a good time.’

JP and his fellow event organisers at CARR are all about big vision, and they know what they’re about. Taking a ‘let’s make this event awesome for everyone!’ approach, they’ve created a locally-run club event with tonnes of slick, pro-like luxury details and a friendly, low-key vibe.

Though there was plenty of hard racing up at the sharp end this year, with a very healthy front pack keeping the competition close, the interstaters I talked to compared Lasseters Easter in the Alice to a hard but chilled outing with their local crew. So while the Lasseters Easter in the Alice event has grown, at heart it has stayed very much the same.

And that’s just the way we like it here in the Red Centre.

Meet your new crew

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The Alice Springs Desert Park start line, with the McDonnell Range in the background.

Sure, in a climate this dry, there’s always going to be plenty of trips to the little boys and girls rooms before a stage start, but there was very little talk of ‘going for a nervous’. The vibe at the Lasseters Easter in the Alice was so low-key most of us set our bike computers to ‘cruise control’ and left it at that.

The Alice Springs special

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Did somebody order a huge helping of red singletrack under clear blue skies, with a side of rocks, sand and toasty temps, hold the thorns?

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Rain the week before Easter bedded in the tracks and left the Red Centre greener than anyone could remember.

A family affair

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Ben Gooley at the Stage 1 start line, inside the Alice Springs Convention Centre.

Local lad Ben Gooley’s exuberant enthusiasm for riding is legendary. We had to call on Ben’s wife Anita and daughter Olivia to help keep Ben at the start line as we waited for the starter horn in the Stage One NT Government Individual Time Trial.

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Interstate Junior Damon Dawes (U13) just ate up the kays.

There were a fair number of younger riders sporting race plates too. Race director JP thoughtfully re-directed these budding Jason Englishes and Jessica Douglases to shorter ‘Junior’ courses, to save us regular folk the embarrassment of being passed by a young whippet.

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The Dusty Demons Easter Sunday Kids Ride

The Red Centre at night

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Courtney Shinn chases down Russell Bryant, with Mt Gillen silhouetted behind.

Night stages always seem to divide visitors from regular Alice yahoo-ers – here in Alice Springs, riding at night is not the after-work-in-winter, cold, muddy mountain bike drudgery it is on the coast.

Gary I’m-here-so-often-I’m-practically-a-local Harwood (right) putting the pressure on East Coaster Mike Blewitt.
Gary I’m-here-so-often-I’m-practically-a-local Harwood (right) putting the pressure on East Coaster Mike Blewitt.

Bunnies galore!

We kicked off Easter Sunday with a casual cruise through town to the Alice Springs Telegraph Station, everyone fully kitted out in race regalia and bunny ears, for a Welcome to Country by Lhere Artepe Tribal Elders.

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Long-eared racer Ron Guascoine in the Bunny Procession to the Alice Springs Telegraph Station.
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Welcome to Country by Lhere Artepe Tribal Elders.

After that, it was all on, with the second starter horn sending us out across the Todd River, over the newly opened Alice Springs Mountain Bike Trails network and then out to Emily Gap and back – around 45km, and mostly singletrack. Phew!

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What’s this wet stuff in the riverbed?

 Go faaaaaaaat!

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The Fat-Tyre Flyers: in a class of their own…

Put two fatbikers into a crowed room and what do you have? A secret club, that’s what.

With a growing population of fatbikers in Alice Springs, the Fat-Tyre Flyers category was inevitable.

The fatbike battalion spent most of the weekend posing for the camera, and parking their bikes in prominent places and revelling in the attention their bikes earned them.

But those fatties sure held their own when they did head out for a burl. So we sent them off on their own fabike course in the Subway Mt Gillen Eggcellent Stage Three. Think sand, sand and more sand – they loved it!

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Fatbike poseur Chris Turnbull, waiting to cross the Todd River.

The 87km Bunny Buster

The Stage Four Lasseters Bunny Buster was aptly named. That loose and sharp Alice Springs terrain, together with the warmer Central Australian desert temps, really cranked it on, making the 87km course one hell of a challenge!

Ray Neill putting some hard-earned cash in the pain box (AKA Stage 4).
Ray Neill putting some hard-earned cash in the pain box (AKA Stage 4).

I’ve heard it said that ‘winners are grinners,’ but here in the Territory, it’s the grinners who are the real winners, and we had plenty of those at the 2014 Lasseters Easter in the Alice. Roll on Easter 2015!

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Fix that grin in place – hit the Red Centre singletrack with CARR in the Lasseters Easter in the Alice!
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Grinners like milkshake-maker Will Levy are the real winners in the Lasseters Easter in the Alice!

Wanna get your red singletrack fix at next year’s Lasseters Easter in the Alice? Results for this year and more info on next year’s event at www.easterinthealice.wordpress.com.

 

Andy Blair Makes It A Hatrick and Rowena Fry Dominates

Andy Blair left his rivals in the dust, winning the final Stage of the Ingkerreke Commercial Mountain Bike Enduro in Alice Springs today, cementing his yellow leader’s jersey for the third year in a row; whilst Rowena Fry continued her classy in-form week also taking the win at Stage 7 and sealing her general classification yellow jersey victory.

Andy Blair crosses the line to take the win and overall title.

Stage 7 proved to be one of the best and most enjoyed stages of the five day, seven stage event, showcasing why Alice Springs is the hidden gem for mountain bikers around Australia. The final Stage saw riders take to a 36km fast course with varying terrain of single and 4WD tracks, beginning at the Chifley Alice Springs Resort and finishing at the scenic Telegraph Station reserve.

Blair dominated the week, winning all but two stages to wear the famed yellow jersey for a third year in a row, throughout all Stages. His winning time today of 1:34.45 gives him another time-bonus, to finish the week on top of the general classifications with a cumulative time of 9:44.30; ahead of Swell-Specialized teammate Shaun Lewis in second with 9:46.39, and fast finishing Michael Crosbie in third place just over four minutes behind.

“I came here with a job to do and it’s really great to get a hat-trick!” Blair said.

“When you come to Alice Springs, there’s a lot of things that can go wrong throughout a week of racing, so I was lucky enough to only have 1 flat tyre (Tuesday’s stage) and was able to make up for that and stay in the lead all week.” Added Blair.

The humble winner was wrapped to go one-two with Lewis.

“Shaun has looked after me all week, and it’s been awesome going 1 and 2 together. I was in a good position through the stages, but you can never count your chickens until you cross the line on Friday.” Blair said.

Lewis finished second to Blair on general classification overall, and was also the winner of last nights’ spectacular night race; crossing just 0.04 seconds ahead of Blair.

“I’m stoked by my riding this week. We came here as a team, so to go one-two with Blair who is the stronger rider, I’m really happy to finish second behind him. Hopefully I’ll be back next year too!” Lewis said.

Third place overall, and winner of Stage 3 Michael Crosbie (who rides for Rush Racing), hit the trails of Alice Springs for the first time on Monday and along with being a top contender all week, he was blown away by the diversity of the terrain.

“Firstly, I could not believe how much single track there is up here; and the diversity! You go from rock to sand; there’s little pinch climbs everywhere, awesome little descents; and lots of double track and fire roads that are super clean.” Crosbie said.

“I’m very happy with third overall – I’ll definitely be back again.” Added Crosbie.

In the women’s field, Rowena Fry was all class, and despite being pushed non-stop through the week by Jenny Fay, she managed to win 5 Stages and stay in the yellow on top of the general classification. Fry’s total cumulative time was 10:46.33; Fay took second place overall with 11:12.04, and Alice Springs born Terri Rhodes took third with 11:27.32.

Rowena Fry celebrates her victory.

Fry finished her stellar week simulating ‘plank-man’ over the finish line today winning the final stage in 1:49.50, with Rhodes second in 1:57.25 & Kelly Bartlett taking third place with a time of 1:57.26.

“I’m stocked with the win today and to take out the yellow jersey here in Alice Springs!” Fry exclaimed.

“The trails are absolutely pristine! A fantastic way to finish a ‘top top’ event; and I think all the riders had a blast!” Continued Fry.

“Yesterday was a tough day losing time on the individual time trial, but last nights’ Stage race was crucial for me, and I had a ball mixing it up amongst the guys and riding through mud puddles.” Fry said.

Fry took her hat off to the determined Fay, who despite building some fantastic form through the week, suffered from a mechanical in last nights’ stage, and a flat tyre today.

“Hats off to Jenny Fay; she was absolutely smashing me on the fire roads, and I was hanging on by a thread. I couldn’t wait to get to the single track (my forte) and I was wrapped to really just enjoy the day. It’s been great racing all week with Jenny and I’ve had a blast; I’ll definitely be back again next year.” Fry said.

Stage 7 second place Terri Rhodes grew up in Adelaide, but was born in Alice Springs and was very exciting about her racing all week.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the first stage, the night race and then today’s stage. It’s the single track I really enjoy. I pretty much rode along with a smile on my face – it was a really nice day.” Rhodes said.

“This is my third time in the Enduro; but the first time I felt like I was in good form, so it’s really nice to come back to my home time and go well.” Added Rhodes.

The feeling amongst all riders in the 2013 Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro was that of elation and sense of achievement in an iconic Australian location – the spectacular red centre.

One rider to add some flair to the exciting week of racing was John Groves of Victoria who crossed nearly every finish line doing the ‘plank’ on his bike, and was therefore known amongst riders as the infamous ‘plank man’ (with which Fry simulated).

“It’s my first time to Alice Springs and this stage race is something I’ve wanted to do for a number of years.” Groves said.

“Now that time permits, I’ve made it up here and it couldn’t be much better! I love the loose trails, it makes it more exciting and my favourite stage was today for sure; I was taking in the views and really enjoyed riding along the fun single track and down all the rock faces.” Groves said.

Whilst the pointy end of the field had some fast finishing Stage races, each category also showcased some fierce competition. Michael Brill won the veterans (40-49) age group today, and took out the general classification to finish off a great week of mountain biking.

“The riding through Alice Springs is just amazing; the tracks are just awesome and I’ve had such a great time. I’m absolutely spent, but I’ve loved it.” Brill said.

STAGE SEVEN MEN

  1. Andy Blair                            01:34.45
  2. Shaun Lewis                       01:34.45
  3. Michael Crosbie                01:35.19

STAGE SEVEN WOMEN

  1. Rowena Fry                        01:49.50
  2. Terri Rhodes                      01:57.25
  3. Kelly Bartlett                      01:57.26

OVERALL STANDINGS MEN (Total Cumulative Time –All Stages)

  1. Andy Blair                            9:44.30
  2. Shaun Lewis                       9:46.39
  3. Michael Crosbie                9:51.03

OVERALL STANDINGS WOMEN (Total Cumulative Time –All Stages)

  1. Rowena Fry                        10:46.33
  2. Jenny Fay                            11:12.04
  3. Terri Rhodes                      11:27.32

 

All over, until next year.

Stage 3: Ingkerreke Commercial Mountain Bike Enduro

Rowena Fry makes it three from three so far at Stage 3 of the Ingkerreke Commercial Mountain Bike Enduro – a 49km single track sweetener; whilst Michael Crosbie takes his first win ahead of the Specialized-Swell duo Shaun Lewis and Andy Blair.

Michael Crossbie – On Course

The stage began at Alice Springs Telegraph Station heading out on 4WD tracks before becoming an almost continual trail of single track through some of the region’s best trails, and finishing up at Lasseters Hotel Casino.

At the half way point at the front end of the field, Lewis, Crosbie and Ben Hogarth were fanging hard together on the sweeping single tracks as Andy Blair played catch-up after being stuck with a flat tyre early on in the piece.

Blair said he didn’t panic, but just kept working it. When he came towards the end of the course at the water tower, he could see Crosbie and Lewis just one minute ahead, and was hoping to retain his yellow jersey for the overall lead; which he still holds by 1 minute and 31 seconds.

However it was Crosbie’s fine form which held off the fast finishing Lewis in second place, and Blair taking third, to cross the line first in 2:03.41.

“The plan early on in the race was to see what everyone else was doing. I was riding with my mate Kyle Ward before he had a mechanical at the 30km mark; then there was me Lewis, Hogarth and Blair just behind us.” Crosbie recounts.

“We started to tempo through the single track and Lewis and I got a gap at about the 40km mark and just kept riding away. I was lucky enough at the end to time trial through to the finish and unfortunately Lewis got a flat right near the finish.

“I’m feeling a lot better than yesterday though as I was just finding my legs; and today I was able to open it up a bit so I’m stoked,” Crosbie said.

Swell-Specialized rider Shaun Lewis is making a habit of second place, but was on the defensive today for team-mate Andy Blair due to his flat during the early stages of the race.

“The start was pretty quick with a big bunch all fighting for position. But my team mate (Blair) flatted so from there I took the more defensive role and followed everyone for a while.” Lewis said.

“When Andy wasn’t in the front group, my role is to not push the pace; giving him as much of a chance to get back in the front bunch.

“Crosbie was doing really well and took the lead so I was able to follow him; but I hit a gutter at the end resulting in a flat. But I’m happy we both got up for 2nd and 3rd and Blair retains the yellow.” Added Lewis.

In the women’s field, it was at the halfway point where in-form Rowena Fry was spotted screaming in front and having a great race, sitting 2 minutes ahead of Jenny Fay, before finishing convincingly in her third 1st place of the stage race in a time of 2:19.36.

“It was a great day today, lots and lots of single track, but pretty tough to back up after the Hill Climb and Stage 1 yesterday.” Fry said.

“Today I’m a bit better suited to the conditions on the single track than Fay, and at about a third of the way through I put the hammer down a bit to try and get a bit of a gap; whilst still looking after my legs with tomorrows big stage looming. I just kept working to the finish. It was tough!” Added Fry.

Jenny Fay felt like she chased Fry from the get-go.

“I knew I had to stay up with Row right from the beginning. We rode with each other and fought for position going into the single tracks.” Recounts Fay.

“I got a bit of a jab on one of the rocks and she (Fry) got a bit of a gap; I kept chasing and chasing her. It’s not over until the finish line so I just buried myself and raced to chase her the whole way.

“The course is a lot more technical than yesterday – it’s my nemesis. I’m much better on smoother surfaces. But I’m learning so much already this week as I want to improve technically so this stage race is where I need to be.” Fay said.

Unfortunately Target-Trek rider and yellow jersey contender Jenni King has had to pull out of the stage race due to medical reasons.

Tomorrow sees riders take on the biggest stage of the week, a point to point iconic outback 88km course from remote community Santa Teresa, through to Alice Springs. Riders will traverse a variety of beautiful and rarely accessible desert terrains and is set to test everyone’s legs.

STAGE THREE MEN

  1. Michael Crosbie                2:03.41
  2. Shaun Lewis                       2:04.32
  3. Andrew (Andy) Blair       2:04.51

STAGE THREE WOMEN

  1. Rowena Fry                        2:19.16
  2. Jenny Fay                            2:21.37
  3. Terri Rhodes                      2:30.20

OVERALL STANDINGS MEN (Total Time: Stages 1, 2 & 3)

  1. Andrew (Andy) Blair       3:32.25
  2. Shaun Lewis                       3:33.56
  3. Michael Crosbie                3:34.38

OVERALL STANDINGS WOMEN (Total Time: Stages 1, 2 & 3)

  1. Rowena Fry                        3:59.13
  2. Jenny Fay                            4:02.21
  3. Terri Rhodes                      4:17.36

Stage One A Blast At The Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro

Defending Champion Andy Blair, and six-time National Champion Rowena Fry blast around the 42km Stage 1 of the Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro to take convincing wins in Alice Springs today, 13 May 2013.

Stage 1 winner Andy Blair.

The course was described by Rapid Ascent’s race director John Jacoby as ‘rude, rocky and rough’; and with the wet conditions a far cry from the hot red dust competitors were expecting, it was nothing to stop the 200 riders ready and raring for Stage 1.

The 42km course began from the Chifley Alice Springs Resort under neutral support through town, before popping out on to the western side for the beginning of the single track MTB madness.

It was stage winner Rowena Fry’s first time to Alice Springs, and despite the weather, she had a blast, finishing in 1:39.42 just four seconds ahead of Jenny Fay; with Jenni King taking third place in 1:45.19.

“Being from Tassie, the rain suits me just fine. What an awesome little stage!” Fry said.

“It was a bit of a frantic start with lots of mud and puddles; then Jenny Fay came across to me and we rode together the whole race having a blast! There’s just so much fantastic single track; and short climbs which suits us both.

“There was nothing splitting Jenny and I, but when we came into the velodrome, I was just ahead and felt a little ‘Fabian Cancellara inspiration’ and managed to pinch the win,” continued Fry.

Third placed Jenni King was all praise for Fry, and was happy with her Stage today.

“Fry is always tenacious and loves the single track. I think I rode as well as I can, but I always struggle a bit on the flat open windy bits. But the single track parts I really enjoyed, particularly the rocky parts. All up I’m very happy.” King said.

In the men’s seeded field, it was Andy Blair setting the pace early on taking out the King of the Mountain at Railway Cutting Hill which was the first steep climb of the course.

Blair appeared to have one of the cleanest bikes at the finish line, claiming to have stayed on the front so he didn’t get too much spray as riders roared down the slick and super- fast decent on the other side of Railway Cutting Hill.

Blair edged out rivals Shaun Lewis who took second place, and Ben Mather in third, with a winning time of 1:27.25.

“The wet weather was new to me today as every other year it’s been sunny.” Blair said.

“The course was quite grippy because the sand’s a bit harder in the wet, so it was really fun and you got really fast. There was heaps of single track, it was just awesome,” added Blair.

Returning to some much loved mountain biking, Wade Wallace (cyclingtips.com.au) took on Alice Springs for the first time… in his new category as a ‘veteran’ after celebrating his 40th birthday yesterday.

Wallace took out the veteran male category for Stage 1 in a steaming time of 1:36.37. Knowing his background on the road bike, it’s fair to say Wallace will be one to watch going into tonight’s Stage 2 ANZAC Hill Climb.

“I sussed everyone out in the beginning during the neutral start to work out where I’d fit in. I ended up following one of the Specialized riders and he pushed into the single track.” Wallace said.

“It was perfect conditions, nice and tacky; but with some sharp rocks hitting my pedals, I know now to be more careful for the rest of the week,” laughs Wallace.

STAGE 2, the ANZAC Hill Climb begins at 4:30pm local time (Alice Springs). Results will be posted online and via Rapid Ascent’s Twitter and Facebook accounts this evening.

Tomorrow, Tuesday 14th May, sees riders take on Stage 3, a 49km course starting out on 4WD tracks before becoming an almost continual trail of single track through some of the region’s best trails. The stage begins at Telegraph Station at 9am, before finishing up at Lasseters Hotel Casino from 11am.

STAGE ONE MEN
1. Andrew (Andy) Blair 1:27.25
2. Shaun Lewis 1:28.46
3. Ben Mather 1:28.49

STAGE ONE WOMEN
1. Rowena Fry 1:39.42
2. Jenny Fay 1:39.46
3. Jenni King 1:45.19

OVERALL STANDINGS MEN
1. Andrew (Andy) Blair 1:27.25
2. Shaun Lewis 1:28.46
3. Ben Mather 1:28.49

OVERALL STANDINGS WOMEN
1. Rowena Fry 1:39.42
2. Jenny Fay 1:39.46
3. Jenni King 1:45.19

Must Ride: Alice Springs, NT

Flying into towards Alice Springs from Sydney is like watching some incredible abstract painting unfurling in front of your eyes; a canvas of swirling colours and ripples, like a pond with a rock lobbed in. As you near Alice itself the ripples consolidate into larger and larger peaks and cliff lines, eventually compressing into the impressive McDonnell Range that looms over the town.

I’d refused to buy into the hype about Alice Springs, but as the wheels touched down and I saw the landscape around me from ground level for the very first time, I began to grasp the potential here. I lived for a few months in Moab, Utah, one of the most revered mountain biking destinations on the planet. Alice looked remarkably similar, with the same ancient crumbly escarpments, open terrain unrestrictive of trail building, big red rocks… it was all eerily familiar, albeit with the altitudes shrunk down a bit.

Like nowhere else in Australia.

When we hit the trails the next morning, early so as to beat the still-hot sun, it really sunk in: the crushed granite and quartz singletrack under my wheels was world-class, right up there with Moab. Over the next few days we rode trails that rivalled anything I’ve experienced in Australia, and around the world, and there’s so damn much of it.

Looks good, huh?

Three main trail ‘centres’ cluster around Alice, like a clover leaf, all within five minutes’ ride from the middle of town. And once you’re out there, you really out there, you can lose sight of town and civilisation in a heart beat.

For our visit, on the tail end of summer, the middle of the day was still roasting (winter is gorgeous all day long though) forcing us to ride early or late. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Sunrise and sunset is pure magic – “like swimming through cider” – with golden light making the reds and oranges or the landscape glow like they’re lit from within.

As the sun sets, the rocks change colours by the second.

I admit that I’m prone to effusive frothing, but Alice is the real deal. The terrain is magnificent and completely unique in Australian mountain biking. The trails are as endless as the sky is vast and it’s all there, three hours from anywhere in Australia. Drop by.

 

Alice Springs Masters Games 2012

Thirty is the minimum age to get into the Masters Games. The third decade doesn’t seem that old these days, though, and getting older won’t instantly make you a sports master, no matter how many birthday candles you blow out. But there’s something for everyone in the Masters Games, ‘the friendly games’.

The Masters Games has been running since 1986. This multi-sport event travels around Australia, returning to Alice Springs every second year.

This year’s mountain biking events attracted over 90 riders – double the number of participants in 2010. Many were interstate visitors and people new to mountain biking, and they were welcomed to the trails and to the sport by Alice Springs’s local club, the Central Australian Rough Riders (CARR), which ran the cross country, the Anzac Hill climb (a 300m hill sprint), the dirt criterium (of 10 minutes plus one lap), and a 4-hour enduro.

Respect!!!!!