Canberran pro rider James Downing is racing The Redback for a sixth time and says he’ll be aiming for a high finish again, having placed within the top 10 each year.
We’re stoked to have James back on board as official event ambassador for The Redback, and we caught up with him before he jetted off to Alice Springs…
Q) James, how do you feel about returning to race The Redback for a 6th time, do you still get as excited about it as the first couple you raced? How do you keep racing and events fresh if you’ve already raced them and know them pretty well?
I love racing in Alice Springs! It is as simple as that for me. These sorts of trails are my favourite type as they challenge you in every single way. A couple of weeks out the excitement levels do rise as I start prepping everything that I need to bring with me and when the plane is reaching the last half hour of its travel time....I look out the window and I can see the red dirt! That is when I know that I am getting close again for real! With events that are on each year the main focus is to try and do my best, better a previous position or time, or just hit specific goals within the race itself. The best thing about mountain biking for me is that you can ride the same trail 5 times and it will throw you up 5 different experiences....that is the appeal of mountain biking for me, pure and simple.
Q) How does your riding, racing, training and fuelling change as you approach an event like this one in the lead up – do you change how you do things?
It doesn't really change all that much as I have a reasonably good handle on what I need to do week in week out in order to stay at a pretty good level year round. As I live in Canberra, and it is cold at this time of the year, I try to make at least one of my training rides during the week in the middle of the day to be in the 'heat' to attempt to close the heat gap to that of Alice Springs. Bear in mind that this is a relative term! The last few weeks have only maxed out at 10 degrees!
Q) Favourite elements about the riding up in Alice?
Loose, dry, rocky - this is what I jump on the mountain bike for! Stromlo in Canberra is slightly similar and it is no coincidence that these two places are my favourite locations to ride in Australia.
Q) Five most important ‘no-brainer’ tips for people coming to race the Redback for the 1st time?
Good question!! Don't underestimate the need to have good tyres and also a good hydration strategy. The rocks are razor sharp and you will need a tyre with some kickass sidewall protection. Maybe take a spare as well. The air is really dry up in Alice Springs...so you need to drink a bit more than you would elsewhere. Don't skimp on the fluids and the opportunity to have extra at the feed zone. Don't be afraid to run a camelback either. There is a fair bit of singletrack and you can drink a bit easier with a hydration pack. Go for a spin on the trails before race day even if it is just for 5km. It will loosen your legs after the transit day and give you a feel for the dirt up there.
Q) Where does The Redback rank for you in terms of events and good times? What makes you keep coming back, and will you be pushing it at the front of the field for a good result again in 2018?
It is a must do for me every year not only from a racer point of view, but also from a social point as well. The racing is such a small component across the week...you are hanging out with mates for almost triple the time spent on the bike which is awesome! On January 2nd when I am putting my race calendar together it gets pencilled in first! I love being able to escape a cold winter, ride some awesome trails, hang out with some great crew, relax by the pool after reach stage and as an added bonus come back home with some extra stage race form in the legs and lungs! I will definitely be aiming for a high finish here again as this event is one of my major priorities across the year! I'll roll the dice and see how it goes based on who else shows up!
Q) Do you think The Redback is an event for all ages, and what will newer racers get out of stepping up to race an event like this one, if they’ve got it on their radar?
Of course! If you have a genuine love for mountain biking then this event will appeal to you regardless of age. You only need to push it as hard as you need it to be for your own objectives. Over the years this race has attracted Australia's best riders as well as people just wanting to ride with a number plate. You will not see anything like it anywhere else in Australia and you pack a lot of racing, riding, chilling and socialising into the course of the time spent here. It is one to do at least once!
10 Fast Tips with James Downing
- Tyres....don't skimp on protection!
- Hydrate and then hydrate again...both on the bike and off it!
- When you are in the sand...pedal a light(ish) gear
- Clean your bike after each stage.... a clean bike is a fast bike!
- After each stage go to the pool and hang out, swap war stories about the day
- Eat for tomorrow...and then some!
- Bring spares for your bike. Tyres, tubes, derailleurs
- DO NOT cut corners or go off the track! You will get thorns in your tyre or you will hit something that is hidden!!
- Every now and then look around at the scenery. It is nothing short of amazing!
- Thank the trail builders! You are being treated up here in a big way!
For more information about The Redback MTB Stage Race or to enter head to theredback.com.au
23rd-26th August 2018 - Alice Springs, Northern Territory
4 days, 6 stages:
- Tourism NT Stage 1 –39km Cross Country Race - Thursday (AM)
- Rapid Ascent Stage 2 - 300m ANZAC Hill Climb - Thursday (PM)
- ITT Stage 3 –22km Individual Time Trial - Friday (AM)
- Stage 4 –22km Night Race - Friday (PM)
- Ultimate Ride Bicycle Centre Stage 5 – 50km Cross Country Race - Saturday (AM)
- Mercure Alice Springs Resort Stage 6 –45km Cross Country Race - Sunday (AM)
Event Hashtag: #TheRedback
Official Website: www.TheRedback.com.au