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.

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.

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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.

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“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

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.