Mountain bikes are a tool for fitness, a tool to earn a living (for some!), a method of self expression, a vehicle for transport, a way to blow off steam, a pride and joy, a travel buddy and usually a combination off all those things and more. In just the same way, a mountain bike event is about more than results.
Good mountain bike events will leave you feeling tired, but refreshed. Some of the best mountain bike races in the world take you to stunning locations. From resort towns in the European Alps, to outback escapes in Australia, high country locations in New Zealand and cowboy outposts come resorts in the Rocky Mountains. But what makes the experience? The location? The stages? The people?
One race location that tends to leave an indelible mark on those that visit. Alice Springs in Australia’s Northern Territory sits right in the centre of Australia. The Red Centre is home to many natural wonders, like Uluru and Kata Tjuta, countless gorges, rugged red outcrops, water holes and more – all under an expansive sky. In Alice Springs, the town sits next to the impressive MacDonnell Ranges. A 644km long mountain back drop for the town.
There are two mountain bike stage races in Alice Springs. Easter in the Alice is the younger one, and The Redback is the older one that falls in Easter. Here at MarathonMTB.com we are big fans of visiting Alice Springs. By racing bikes, riding trails, and sharing time with local competitors and others who have flown in like ourselves has left long last memories.
“I have travelled to ‘the Alice’ for MTB racing a few times now and it never gets old!” Justin Morris stated. “The trails are amazing and give more reward the harder you push through them, and this is a very motivating way to ride a mountain bike. More than the trails here though riding in this part of the world is really something special that is hard to articulate in words. But I know each person that goes to the Alice to ride or race feels this unique sensation”.
Most stages in Alice Springs take place early, soon after the sun rises. And as Justin points out there is something special about that. You’re riding in a harsh environment that is slowly being revealed by the sun, with a myriad of red and orange tones as the sun gains strength. Its a memory that stays with you.
“I’ve raced in Alice about seven times and I always love to go back,” says Imogen Smith. “It’s not any one thing, but a combination of perfect weather, incredible hand-built trails, remarkable scenery and a vibrant local scene that make it special. Racing in Alice should be on every mountain biker’s bucket list.”
Away from the trails, one of the great things about races in Alice Springs is how central everything is. The stage plan for The Redback in August has all starts and finishes right close to town. Don’t worry about a hire car, you can ride to and from every start right from your accommodation.
The big advantage of that is more down time – and more time meeting your fellow racers. I have never raced in Alice Springs and not come away with some new friends. And the first time I went to Alice Springs in 2011, it was on the insistence of the late Paul Darvodelsky. Paul loved Alice Springs so much that he moved there. The town and the trails got under his skin. I went out and raced the Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro (The Redback’s previous guise) and had a great time across the 5 days of racing.
Staying at his home with other mountain bikers from around the country in 2011 and 2012, I fell in love with the riding in Alice Springs. From the cool mornings, the warm sun, the trails that follow natural lines in the landscape and are nearly free from the touch of large trail building machines – the riding in Alice has some of the most natural feeling to it. Many trails have been build on lines taken by wildlife, worn into place by mountain bike tyres, and neatened up by passionate locals and of course brought into officialdom by National Parks.
I have visited Alice about 5 times since Paul first insisted that I come out to visit. And I have never regretted the trip. Each trip to the Red Centre has been unique, and while every visit has involved a bike race, each time I have met new people and certainly had a difference experience while behind the bars of my bike. And any trip I go on from now I’ll certainly have Paul in my thoughts.
The Redback is on again this year from August 22-25, cramming 6 varied stages of racing into 4 days.
- Stage 1 – Tourism NT 35km
- Stage 2 – Rapid Ascent 300m ANZAC Hill Climb – Thursday (PM)
- Stage 3 – 22km Individual Time Trial – Friday (AM)
- Stage 4 – 22km Night Race – Friday (PM)
- Stage 5 – 42.5km Cross Country Race – Saturday (AM)
- Stage 6 – Mercure Alice Springs Resort 46km Cross Country Race – Sunday (AM)
If you have never been, grab some friends and make the trip out to the Red Centre. The riding will be great, the climate is likely better than elsewhere in Australia in winter, and you’re certain to make great new memories from the NT, along with new friends.