One of the best parts of mountain bike racing is the places these events encourage people to visit. The Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro (or ICME) starts this Monday and has seen an estimated 160 MTB tourists pack their bikes, jump on a plane and make the journey to Alice Springs. A strong crew of local riders is pumped about the event as well. It’s a long way to other races from here.
I’ve found in the past that when travelling to local events, I’m more or less focussed on the racing side of things. Heading to Alice, the racing on offer is only one small part of the experiences that are about to unfold. I booked my flight a couple of days early to take in as much of this extra Alice-ness as I could.
I caught up with editor buddy Nic Learmonth (MTB columnist for the Centralian Advocate) for a local view of the town. Highlights have included wandering through galleries, camel rides, hitting the bike paths on townies, hitting up the flowy singletracks, food (lots of food), swimming in the Todd River, and meeting other local mountain bikers along the way. The biggest thrill of all has been seeing the Northern Territory from the sky.
Like many of the local businesses that are excited about the ICME, Outback Ballooning has a 2 for 1 offer available for mountain bikers over the duration of the event. Seeing the sunrise over the desert is one thing, but seeing it from up high is something else again. You can see so much of the local artwork in the land, and so much of the land in the art. Our tour guide, Captain Ronn, took us on a 23km journey through the sky. I leaned over the edge of the basket, big-eyed and stunned, watching the landscape change constantly during the hour long trip. The landing was smoother than custard, and walking inside the balloon after the ride was even more of a bonus than the champagne breakfast that followed.
Often, before a race, I’m excited about the trails and a bit nervous about what will happen and how it will feel. But as we move toward the ICME, I’m buzzing so much about the bigger aspects of this journey, it’s hard to spend too much energy wondering about what might happen during the race or what might be. I’m just so glad to be here – in the middle of this breathtaking landscape is a collection of sweet, winding trails that are guaranteed to take my breath away in a whole new manner during the week to come.
Photos: Nic Learmonth and Kath Bicknell.