Imagine an early morning ride watching the sun rise and beat down on the West Macdonald Ranges. There’s no such thing as the peak hour commute that congests plenty of other parts of the country at this time of day; just the stunning expanse of NT’s mesmerising, unforgettable landscape.
Welcome to the stomping ground of the Alice Springs Cycling Club.
Established on the 29th July, 1966, the club has grown to 96 members of diverse age groups and abilities. The very nature of Alice’s local economy means its population is considerably transient. The Alice Springs Cycling Club therefore becomes a terrific way to not only establish contacts and meet new faces, but to experience the striking landscape in a far more intimate way than an outback drive will ever provide.
Rides invariably end up at a local café or one of the club member’s swimming pool. Tuesdays and Thursdays provide some pointy-end training. Be out early enough and you’ll see a trail of flashing tail lights work their way up to the hills on the Sturt Highway until they arrive at the high-point marker, the uppermost point between Adelaide and Darwin. Cyclists wait at the top for all riders to make it, before returning as a group to the bakery where the serious socialising and catch-ups of the day get underway. But this bi-weekly ride is just the tip of the cycling iceberg for this active club.
Given Alice’s isolation a lot of members will travel nationally and overseas to race. This year one A-grade rider, Ryan Coppola qualified for the World Amateur Championships in Slovenia, where he placed 57th in the road racing. It goes without saying members return to the local ranks with a wealth of experience and stories to inspire and motivate the broader bunch.
Not that they probably need all that much inspiration – it seems to abound in these parts.
Take for instance the annual King’s Canyon Cruise, a three-day 500km supported ride from Alice to Watarrka (King’s Canyon). Or the various Gran Fondo events that roll out across some of the region’s remote resorts, including Glen Helen, Ross River and Stuart’s Well (made possible thanks to Dominic Miller of Frampton’s Real Estate). Indeed local businesses really get behind a lot of the cycling events; look no further than Bond Springs Station, which has sponsored the famous King of the Hills race for the past 39 consecutive years.
But the biggest race in the annual calendar is unquestionably the Barkly Challenge, which brings together riders from Darwin, Mount Isa and Alice Springs who battle it out for one weekend of time-trailing, road racing and Crits.
These guys are a lucky lot – not only do they have a Velodrome, but some of the most scenic mountain trails and road rides in Australia. It’s a formidable training ground for budding cyclists, and the club certainly has plenty of those. There’s no end of strong representation from very handy junior riders, and coaches who work to ensure they’re exposed to plenty of riding, be it road, MTB and/or track. There’s A, B and C grade riders in both road and track, and a points system that contributes to overall placings at the end of the season.
This is the kind of go-getting cycling club that makes a southerner like me want to jump on a plane and head up there for a great few weeks of riding!