Tags: Redback, Alice Springs, DotheNT, ExploreNT, Stage Race, Alice Springs
Stage one of the Redback was a 38km stage that began, like most of the stages of the Redback, at the social hour of 0930. Just to ease into things a bit, the stage started from the Chifley Resort—the event centre—and had a 6km neutral start with a police escort through the streets of Alice before the real racing began. It’s amazing coming from the bright lights and big cities of Sydney and Brisbane, that the main roads all around the town can be momentarily shut down by the long arm of law to let 200 straggly mountain bikers have a race.
The remaining 32km started with a fast and furious jaunt along the rail line, with one section of seemingly endless sand. Perhaps it was quicksand? It sure felt that way. The KOM was approximately 4km along this road and while it was completely ridable, a lung burner of a pinch. Turning across the railway, the singletrack really began. Locals have described these trails as some of the less manicured, rougher trails Alice has to offer.
Short sections of fireroad broke up the snaking, rocky and sandy trails. The feed zone was located at 27km, and preceded the final rail crossing leading into the famous ‘Blair’s Stairs’ climb before heading into the Velodrome for a lap of the track.
To do well on this stage, ensuring a good early position was really important. After the neutral start, the race started without any elevation or technical features to sort out strong weekend warriors from riders who may be targeting the pointy end, and this culminates in some interesting argy bargy when riders hit the numerous sand-pits along the rail line. With less manicured trails, this course suits someone who is able to let it all hang out in the singletrack, but who is skilled enough to keep away from the jagged, tyre-shredding rocks.
In the men’s race, Craig Cooke from Bootleg Brewery took the win along with a 2min margin, from Ben Hogarth in 2nd and James Downing 3rd. Cooke, hot off the podium finish at the Convict 100 XCM stated “It took me a while to get into the singletrack…Ben and I didn’t realise that we had a gap. Ben had a bit of misfortune on one of the corners on the descent, he washed out and I had the chance to put the hammer down”. Cooke stated he was “exhausted” after the stage and “spent the rest of the day lying down”. Testament that it never gets easier, you just go faster.
In the women’s race Holly Harris had decided to stay in Australia rather than head to Andorra for World Champs, a choice which paid off with a win one minute ahead of seasoned XC and more recently, CX racer, Terri Rhodes. It’s set to be tight between these two. Kim Willocks rounded out the podium. Holly said of stage one “It was pretty brutal…Terri was riding so well, just putting me under so much pressure the whole way” and that the copious amounts of singletrack today were “wicked”.
High points included deliciously shredly singletrack, blue skies, the warm of a central Australian ‘winter’. Low points included quicksand argy-bargy and leaning on the ventolin a bit too much in the dry conditions.
Results Stage 1:
Craig COOKE 1:36:09
Ben HOGARTH 1:38:06
James DOWNING 1:38:27
Holly Harris 1:50:18
Terri Rhodes 1:51:21
Kim Willocks 2:03:17
Stage 2 of the Redback was the infamous Anzac Hill sprint, being short at 300m long, it makes up for it’s brevity with it’s lung-burning evilness. The stage is set almost in the middle of town, up Anzac hill, and is a ‘balls to the wall’ minute (or so, give or take a bit depending on who you are!) straight up the bitumen to the monument.
This stage favours those with explosive power and it is not uncommon to see a rider not in the leaders’ jersey take the win here.
Holly Harris gave her hot tip for success on the course “I reckon i’m going to sit down, then i’ll stand up around that corner”.
Holly stood up the whole way, results to come.