The Outback Cycling Easter in the Alice drew mountain bikers from around the country to the dry, natural trails in the red centre.
The Easter in the Alice event has been run since 2013 and in recent years has become a peak mountain biking event in the red centre. Gathering for the Easter long weekend, riders travelled from all around Australia to find out just what makes Alice Springs so special, and such a hub for mountain biking.
The 2019 event saw a departure from the local mountain biking club the Central Australian Rough Riders—and notably esteemed mountain biker and club member Paul Darvodelsky—in running the event. With Darvodelsky losing his battle with cancer in 2018, it was up to local bike shop Outback Cycling’s Justine and Clark Petrick to pick up where Darvodelsky left off, and continue the tradition of ‘Easter done right’ to honour his memory.
The three day event was classified as a “Marquee” event under the MTBA National Cup points system, consisting of three 40km days of fast and furious, flat-out racing. For those looking for a shorter challenge, the Midi event offered a sample of Alice’s great trail in a shorter race format (approximately half the distance each day).
Starting in Alice’s Todd Mall, stage one featured a neutral roll—through the sandy Todd River to get the lungs busting—and out onto some fireroad before heading into some typical east-side tracks. Favourites such as Warrigal, Perentie and Sink Track featured, and the racing was notably undulating and technically challenging, with rock step-ups the flavour of the day. In the evening, the presentations brought all competitors back to Outback Cycling retail frontage in the Todd Mall, where nacho’s and hot wings sated hungry riders, while a selection of bike related movies were played in the makeshift outdoor theatre of the mall. Kids ran riot on their balance bikes, and adults adjourned to local bars for sneaky mid-stage race beers.
Stage two started and finished at the Hilton Double Tree, a few kilometres from town, and highlighted a completely different type of trail; fast and flowy. There were far fewer crunchy-granola rocks to catch you out, instead a couple of guys in a rock band made you look twice as they shredded their axe and drums in bib shorts and helmets; that’s not something you get in many bike races…and certainly not one in the middle of the desert!
The long sweeping pebbly corners and some longer fireroad sections meant this was a stage for the powerhouses and pedallers. Following the main event, there was an optional ‘shoot out’ criterium round the surrounds of the Hilton and pool for the top 20 riders. This made for great spectating, and was followed by a pool party at the Hilton. A select lucky few even won helicopter rides: imagine floating over the Macdonnell ranges in a chopper!
The third and final stage was many people’s highlight of the weekend. Despite many bemoaning the early 0630 start, the sun crested at the Telegraph Station just as the gun went off and hearts soared as riders were flung into some of the best single track of the weekend. It had everything; it was rocky and off camber, smooth and flowy; cresting hills looking out onto the Macdonnell Ranges. It was something special, and smiles and pancakes abounded as riders crossed the finish line and shared jubilant stories of trailside adventures.
That evening riders arrived back at the Telegraph Station for the celebration dinner, presentation, and the ‘bad-cyclists boogie’ with the local rock band. At the pointy end of the field Andrew Blair took out the win in the men’s race, followed by Justin Morris and NT local Oliver Hartung. In the women’s race it was Anna Beck, followed by Briony Mattocks with Karen Hill in third.
This new iteration of the Easter in the Alice goes to prove that Alice has something for everyone; the elites, the weekend warrior and even as a family event. The proximity of all the stages to the centre of town makes this race so accessible, and logistically easy. The Easter in the Alice truly is a must-do event for all dedicated mountain bikers in Australia.