The Redback MTB Event Preparation

The Rapid Ascent Redback is a six-stage, four-day mountain bike event held in Alice Springs starting on 17 August 2017. This post provides a summary of the course profile for each stage, race tips, and some training tips. You can find gpx files with elevation profiles of each stage in my Ride with GPS Fusion Cycle Coaching Group. [Disclaimer: course profiles are taken from the maps on the event page. There may be changes or inaccuracies in the map so check the details for yourself on race day.]

First of all – what are you in for each stage:

Stage 1

The first stage, held on the morning of Day 1, is a 41km mass start race, with a combination of fire trail and singletrack. The race profile has 300m of elevation gain. The course is mostly uphill for the first 14km, relatively gradual but with a couple of short steep bits at around 10% gradient. The second half is more downhill than uphill, with a section pretty much all downhill at 24km-30km.

Ride tips: The first 4km is flat on the highway – this is your chance to establish a good position before the turnoff. The first half of the course is mostly climbing, so pace yourself. Around the halfway mark is a flatter, less technical section where you can get in some food or drink. Then the second half is mostly downhill and more technical.

Stage 2

Stage 2 is in the afternoon of Day 1, and is a hill climb time trial up Anzac Hill Rd in the centre of town. The road is paved all the way. There is (according to Ride with GPS) 20m of elevation gain in the 300m climb. The gradient starts out not too bad, but gets properly steep for the middle section of the climb. Then towards the top, the gradient eases off but doesn’t get flat!

Ride tips: Try to get out the day before the event starts to do a recon ride of this climb, to figure out what gear you want to start in, and whether you need to change gears on the climb. Practice this a couple of times! This will be a good warmup to get your legs ready to ride on the following day.

On race day up this climb – start hard, go hard in the middle, then keep pushing hard all the way to the top!

Stage 3

Day 2 starts with an individual time trial in the morning, along a 22km circuit with 175m of elevation gain. The course is relatively flattish, with a tough uphill section at approx 17.5-18.5km, then pretty much downhill to the finish.

Ride tips: Ride at a pace you can sustain for an hour. Don’t start too hard, maybe just hold back 5% for the first 5min when the adrenaline is flowing so that you don’t go too far into the red zone. Make sure you have something left in the legs for the nasty 1km climb at around 17.5km – this is the last hard effort, so push up this climb then keep up your speed on the downhill all the way to the line.

Stage 4

You get to ride the same circuit as the time trial, but as a night time mass start race.

Ride tips: You only get about 2km to establish a good position before hitting the more technical sections. Think about where in the pack you want to ride based on your strengths. Also learn from your recon in the time trial – which tricky technical bits do you need to watch out for? How hard can you go up the climb? Which lines did you nail first time?

Stage 5

There is only one stage on Day 3, Stage 5, which is another mass start race. This course is 42.5km with 615m of elevation gain. This is the hilliest of all the race circuits. There are 1km long climbs at approx 5km, 9km and 13km, plus quite a few other peaky bits.

Ride tips: The first 3-4km is where you’ll establish your position in the pack, before the course gets a bit more uphill and technical. It will definitely pay to pace yourself through this one. Your legs will be feeling the effects of the previous four stages, plus with lots of climbing throughout this race you don’t want to cramp or run out of oomph before the end. Keep focused and keep eating and drinking when you get a chance.

Stage 6

The final day and the final stage! This one is also a mass start race, 46km with 350m of elevation gain. The first 2km runs north alongside Todd River, and the climbing starts at about the 4km mark. It is undulating the whole stage, all up and down with a few short hard climbs. But you’ll be enjoying the best singletrack that Alice Sprints has to offer so you won’t even notice!

Ride tips: This is your last stage, so make the most of the experience. Try to nail the technical bits, pace yourself well on the climbs, and beat that person you’ve been shadowing since Day 1!

Training Tips

To really enjoy a multi-stage event like this, it pays to do some specific training. Here are some tips for what to include in your training plan:

  • Work up to doing 40-50km off-road, including quite a bit of singletrack. Try to get in a similar amount of elevation gain as some of the race stages. Singletrack takes more concentration and is more demanding than non-technical gravel riding, so to get the most benefit from your long training rides you’ll want to include mostly singletrack if you can.
  • Do two rides in one day – e.g. a ride in the morning and a ride in the evening. The morning ride should be a long 30-40km ride. Then in the evening/afternoon, get out for at least an hour. This will help you practice the multi-stage days, including what you need to do for recovery and nutrition to back up two rides in one day.
  • Ride multiple days back-to-back. Work up to at least two days in a row with long (30-50km) rides each day. If you can, incorporate two rides per day for one of these days (so you get three rides in two days). Also try to ride for four days in a row, even if two of the days are not very long. This will get your body used to being in the saddle for multiple days in a row.
  • Include hills in your rides, of varying distances up to at least 1km, with varying gradients. Maybe do some hill repeats up a 500m-1km climb – ride hard to the top, ride back to the bottom, ride hard to the top, and keep this up for 30min. Make sure you do a warmup before you start this session, and a cooldown afterwards.
  • Practice the hill climb time trial. Find a paved hill around 300-500m long. Start stationary and unclipped at the bottom, so that you can practice a standing start. It is good to use a paved hill, as this will feel different from gravel.
  • Practice night riding. You want to make sure you have some good lights that will last as long as your 22km race. You also want to practice reading terrain, including singletrack, with lights in the dark rather than daylight.
  • Practice your race-day nutrition during training. Make sure you are happy with your bottle(s)/camelbak setup, your drink mix, and any food or gels you are using before you get to Alice Springs in the middle of a race!
  • Get your bike checked and serviced a couple of weeks before the event. Get down to your local bike shop (I can recommend Midland Cycles) and get their tips on fine-tuning your equipment for this event – e.g. tyre choice.
  • Taper. Your last long ride should be at least one week before the event starts. In the week before the event, keep your rides shorter (e.g. 1 hour) but include some high intensity – keep up those hill repeats. You should have a few rest days before the event. But on the day immediately prior to the event it will pay to get out and ride for around an hour, and include 3 x 2-3min long efforts. This will get your body ready for the work it has ahead in the next four days …

So get out there, get in some quality training, and most of all enjoy the event!

Remember to bookmark or print this post so that you can read it at the event to prepare for each stage, and follow my blog for more training tips and bike adventures 🙂

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