Day 3 of The Redback MTB stage race is the first single stage day of the race. A longer and more challenging 42km course from the race hotel to the lush ‘Telegraph Station’ just north of Alice Springs took riders onto some of the finest trails of the region. A perfect mix of singletrack, fire trail and rough double track made for an ideal course for close racing. Riders were rewarded for their efforts not only with free food across the finish line but also the beautiful location Rapid Ascent chose for a finish location. The Telegraph Station is the site of the first European settlement in central Australia and was an ideal stopping point for telegram messages being passed between Adelaide and Darwin in the late 1800’s. Given the advent of the automobile and emails etc. This is no longer used as a telegram stopping station but rather a beautiful picnic ground and base for the MTB trails in the area. The irrigated green lawn surrounded by red earth is a welcome sight for humans and native fauna alike. Nearly all hours of the day local wildlife flock here to rehydrate much like the athlete’s racing today’s stage of ‘The Redback’. Read more about the interesting history of the area here.
In the men’d and women’s race there was still plenty on the line to be raced for 3 days into the event. Whilst the stubbie holders and beer’s presented to each category winner as they crossed the line, the seconds separating riders on the GC I think was at the forefront of the mind for the competitive riders. In the men’s today it was young Oliver Hartung who was displaying his eagerness to reclaim his 2nd place on GC back from Jarrod Moroni. Oliver launched from the gun and displayed his prowess on the long stretches of singletrack for the first 20km of today’s stage. His pace was enough to force a selection, with a lead group of 5 formed including Scott Johnson, Jarrod Moroni, James Downing and your author Justin Morris. As Hartung continued with the solid pace the group became 4 with Downing succumbing to the pace. Every few years Alice Springs develops an impressive MTB athlete namely Ryan Standish and Luke Pankhurst of late, Oliver Hartung appears to be the next high performing MTB product of the red centre at only 19 years of age, good things to come for him.
The youth in Hartung’s engine was displayed just after halfway through the stage as he began to lose contact with the lead group on a long fire trail section. It was left to Moroni, Morris and Johnson to duke out the podium positions for the stage. A few moves in the closing kilometre’s showed the desire of Morris and Johnson to reach the finish solo. However, the eagerness was matched by all in this group as it stayed together for a sprint finish; Johnson edging out myself followed by Jarrod Moroni. Moroni one of the few riders competing on a hardtail which he admitted has been rough going on the relentlessly rocky terrain of the Alice trails stating “I will not be able to sit down for a week”. Downing found a 2nd wind to lift his own pace and finish a credible 4th over the line and 1st in the Veterans category. “Stage5 is the reason I love racing the Redback each year. It showcases just how incredible the trails are here in Alice Springs”.
In the Women’s race it was Kristen Gadsdon who managed to claw some lost time back from GC leader Carmen De Rooze today taking the win. However De Rooze managed to limit her losses to less than 2mins meaning she now carries a 17min lead on GC into the final stage. Sophie Marshall with consistent results all week continues her hold on 3rd place overall. Alice Springs local Emma Shearer finished just off the podium in the women’s race today but still has a hold on the ‘Darvo’ trophy rewarding the highest place local female in the event. Full results here.
Tomorrow is the final stage of The Redback for 2018. Riders will race the same course as today but in reverse! Rapid Ascent again turning on their organisational wizardry with a flawlessly run event. Many riders agreeing the logistics of this event are likely the most straightforward of any MTB stage race in the country.