A few tired legs on the start line in downtown Alice Springs for the final and arguably hardest stage of this year’s Redback MTB stage race. Rider’s today faced 45km of predominantly the rocky, well cambered singletrack that typifies the riding in central Australia. Chatting among the riders there was more or less complete agreement that the trails here are such a drawcard, especially for riders from coastal Australian cities. The race and the riding here could have strong appeal for international riders also, as you are treated with a true Australian experience and given the short length of the stages plenty of time to enjoy it outside of the race. Within 1km of riding from Alice Springs bustling downtown you could be forgiven for thinking you are 1000km from civilisation. The only other creatures that required calling ‘track’ to on these trails are kangaroo’s. The trails today were again a treat even given the extremely dry season this part of the world has been given over the past 12months. This commanded a few extra skills from riders to avoid spills on the skatey, loose terrain. The hard rock underbelly of the trails network means that traction is only ever a mm or 2 underneath the loose top layer of sand/dirt.
Racers were lead out by the man responsible for the bulk of trails in the area trail builder and local legend ‘Raby Rabjones’. Raby directed the riders on his e bike along the bike path following the Todd river to the Telegraph station where the flag was officially dropped and racing got underway. It was a case of Deja Vu in the men’s field with again a lead group of 5 forming in the first 5-10km. Race leader Scott Johnson, Jarrod Moroni, team rider myself Justin Morris, Oliver Hartung and James Downing. Hartung learning from his mistakes of the previous day by taking a more conservative approach to the first half of the race, sitting on wheels and saving energy. Downing unfortunately succumbed to his 2nd flat of the week which tailed him off the lead group, however his quick change and recovery meant he clawed back time to finish a clear 5th. The loose terrain bought unstuck both Johnson and myself at different sections of the trail who were unable to keep the rubber side down. however we both managed to recover quickly injury and mechanical free. A 2km sealed road section with about 12km remaining I thought would be a good opportunity to launch an attack with solo finish in mind. However, not to be this group was evenly matched and shut me down reasonably quickly. We all came back into town together with myself, Moroni and Johnson appearing to be sprinting for the win again, Hartung just tailed off in the closing km. An overcooking of the 2nd last corner lead to some confusion but it would finish Johnson, Moroni then myself across the line today.
The close racing continued all the way to the finish in the women’s final. Carmen De Rooze finishing off the week with a stage win to add to her GC crown. Former leader Kristen Gadsdon was breathing down her neck in the final stages finishing only 15seconds in arrears on todays stage. De Rooze stated she “loved the amount of singletrack in this race”. She now heads home to Bendigo, VIC to prepare for the Cape to Cape in WA and the Hellfire Cup in Tasmania. Sophie Marshall would cross the line 3rd today and in doing so seal up her 2nd place on GC with Gadsdon whom will take the overall bronze. Full results here.
Riders now enjoy a celebratory final dinner in the race hotel before departing back to their ‘off bike’ lives. Many are staying on to make a holiday of their time in Central Australia, this is peak tourist time in the outback and there is no shortage of things to see and do including a visit to famous Uluru.
Rapid Ascent have again showed their class in MTB event operation with this the 11th operation of The Redback. The shortened stage format that has become a trend in MTB stage racing is very apt for such a location as Alice Springs as competitors and their families are given the opportunity to go out and explore some of this amazing part of the world after the racing side of things is done. Get The Redback in your diary for 2019, bring the family and enjoy what this race and the area has to offer. Not only are you getting an amazing bike experience you are supporting an MTB community that has invested so much into our sport and really created a special destination for MTB. These events are crucial for the ‘Central Australia Rough Riders’ to showcase their work and justify the continued support of local & state government to invest in our support. So do yourself and the central Australian MTB community and get yourself to Alice Springs for some MTB action! See you at The Redback next year.