Some places are on our personal race calendars as we have them as a major target. Others are there as you know they always draw a big field, or because you’ve arranged to try something new with friends. Some places make it just because the riding, and racing, ar exceptional. Everyone has their own choices for this selections. For some it’s races like the Hellfire Cup in Tasmania, for others it is BC Bike Race, or Transalp. For many Australian riders like James Downing, any race in Alice Springs is a must-do, including the Lasseters Easter in the Alice.
We caught up with James to ask him what exactly drags him to the centre of Australia a couple of times a year with his bike (and many spares) in tow.
MMTB: Mountain bike races are usually part of a mini-holiday too. What is it about Alice Springs that lets you switch off and relax?
JD: Alice Springs allows me to switch off and just think about bike riding. Just getting there feels like you are going on holiday because you have a plane trip where you fly into a sweet little oasis in the desert and you usually stay at a resort with a pool. That doesn’t happen at other races so it is a pretty awesome experience in itself.
MMTB: Most mountain bikers try to compare trails to another place in a way to make others understand what they are like – is that possible for Alice Springs?
JD: Yeah, I always have this conversation with people when they ask what it is like. The best that I can do is to say that it is a flatter, rockier, sandier version of Stromlo.
Ultimately, it is unique in its own way, but it is true mountain biking in that it rewards you in multiple ways if you can ride well technically.
MMTB: Talk us through your post-race ritual at a race in Alice Springs – what fills your afternoon?
JD: Stage racing is all about eating and recovering for the next day right? After I finish I’ll smash a protein shake I’ll grab some food, then head to the pool where I will eat, drink, upload to Strava and tell stories about the day with the other guys that are staying where I am. oh yeah, I’ll also wash my bike!
Gearing up for Stage 4 at The Redback. At 6:45pm we will be off into the desert with our lights showing the way over the same trails done this morning. Stage racing is a pretty tough gig but these are the sacrifices that they talk about 😉 #wymtm #fromwhereiride #alicesprings #northernterritory #ntoutback #outbacknt #desert #oasis #singletrack #theredback #stageracing #bikeracing #mountainbiking #mountainbike #hamburger #poolside #zfg
MMTB: The trails in Alice Springs are well-known for a lot of reasons. One thing is the amount of sharp things. Are there any #protips for bike setup, for tyres, pressures, chain lube or anything else?
JD: There are a few. More than one of the locals has put me onto putting sealant into your spare tube that you carry. I always run heavier, sturdier tyres because the rocks are really sharp out there. I personally also take a lot more fluid with me and am not afraid to run a Camelbak. The air is super dry and usually a bit warmer than the 2602 so dehydration is the enemy out there for me. Tyre pressure is always a personal thing so I like to get there a day before and fine tune it to how I’m riding and how the trails are going.
MMTB: You’ve arrived in Alice Springs ahead of the race, and you and a mate have built your bikes and need to get a ride in. Where do you go?
JD: Head north and hit up the Telegraph Station trails. These are the showcase trails of Alice. They will give you a good insight into what Alice is about and provided you don’t get distracted by the views you will be left grinning like a muppet because they are a bucket load of fun as well. As my mate Stuart proclaimed every stop on his first visit, “This is AWESOME!”. You’ll probably be inclined to do the same.