The Easter in the Alice Springs has become somewhat of a pilgrimage for the Australian MTB community over the past 10-15years. With the drawcard of one of the finest single trail networks in Australia couples with a unique and spectacular location it really has become an event that most MTB’ers agree is a ‘must do’ at least once. Many find the terrain and the location one of the most appealing elements of racing in a desert environment. Within 5minutes of riding from the town centre into the surrounding wilderness your eye’s gaze upon thousands of kilometre’s of remote desert shrubland and mountain ranges. It is difficult to put into words the feelings many feel conjured up by the centre of Australia, a mix of excitement and insignificance. Looking upon a true frontier town and what lays beyond really puts life and often insignificant ‘city issues’ into perspective. I have really come to appreciate this element of racing here now my 3rd trip to Alice Springs.
Sentimental, philosophical ruminations to one side, there is also some hard core racing to be had here. Alice Springs has always batted well out of it’s league in developing young MTB racers. Race’s like the Easter in the Alice always give the next generation of desert juniors to ply their trade against out of town racer’s. Today’s 1st stage was no exception. From the start line of the ‘Outback Cycling’ store in town whom have taken on a large part of the organisation for the event in 2019, it was a single file, high speed pursuit lead by young local riders Oliver Hartung and Henry Hackett. This high speed thinned out the race competition rather quickly with a group of 5 emerging quickly who rode together into the first sections of single track. Oliver Hartung displaying a commanding pace which continued to whittle the group down to just 4. It was Hartung, fellow young local rider Henry Hackett, your author Justin Morris and the well heeled experience of Andy Blair. It was Blair who after about 30minutes of racing stamped his authority on the field and rode away from the more junior riders who were beginning to pay the price for the high speed start of the race. It was experience that would win the day with Andy Blair taking the win 90seconds clear of your author team rider Justin Morris. Young Henry Hackett proved to be a name to watch for the future hanging on for 3rd a further 2minutes back.
The women’s race saw the return of former national XCM champion Jenny Blair (nee Fay) who has been successful in this race in the past. Joining her in a high profile women’s field was current XCM national champ Anna Beck, Specialized rider Briony Mattocks and the well experienced Karen Hill. The race became a yo yo battle between Mattocks and Beck. With 2 more days of racing ahead this is shaping up to be a potentially close duel with Mattocks stating “This is the type of race where anything can really happen”. Full Results available here.
The race also this year will be awarding the first ever ‘Darvo’ Award. An award instigated in memory of the late Paul Darvodelsky who was instrumental in the running of this event in year’s past. Darvo was a champion racer himself who loved the trails of Alice so much he moved his life to the town with his wife Catherine. His memory and legacy is strong in this race and the wider MTB community of central Australia. The ‘Darvo Award’ will be awarded to the rider who display’s the most amount of courage/ drive over the 3days of racing here. A fitting tribute to a rider who himself often displayed such values in his own riding and character.
After a movie evening and presentation tonight racing will continue tomorrow morning with another 40km stage followed by a short ‘shoot out’ event for those in the top 20 overall.