A young Alice Spring indigenous athlete is blazing a new trail as a role model in a sport not usually known for attracting interest in the broader Aboriginal community. Twenty-year-old Hayden Jude will be the first ever indigenous youth to participate in the Ingkerreke Commercial Mountain Bike Enduro, a multi-stage bike race that covers 251km over five days of racing from May 14-18, 2012, in Australia.
Jude, a boiler maker who works for Alice Springs-based Ingkerreke Commercial, heard about the race when approached by General Manager, Ingkerreke Commercial, Scott McConnell.
"I have never taken part in mountain biking before but I am a competitive BMX rider," says Jude, who pointed out the differences between the two sports.
"I am learning that they require different muscles!"
Jude is proud to be taking the lead as an indigenous mountain biker by participating in the enduro. "I feel good about the idea that there are no other well known Indigenous mountain bikers. My community and friends are very supportive and pleased that I am taking part. And it's good to show my community - and people from outback regions in general - that there is something different to football that they can have a go at."
Since signing on to compete, Jude has taken to the singletrack bike trails around Alice Springs with gusto as part of his training.
"They are pretty rough and rocky trails, but fun to ride and definitely helping to improve my skills," said Jude. "I am also getting in some road riding in the morning before work to increase my general fitness level."
The distances involved in the Ingkerreke Commercial Mountain Bike Enduro will present a challenge, according to Jude who is more accustomed to rolling over distances in the hundreds of metres on enclosed BMX tracks rather than the open 251km of trails he'll encounter in the Enduro.
"It makes me feel scared because I have never done anything like this and I don't know how my body is going to cope. But I'm just going out to have some fun with everyone else riding with me.
Jude is being mentored and supported by local cycling identity, Corey Gerdsen, owner of Alice Springs bike shop, Ultimate Ride.
"Ultimate Ride has sponsored Hayden in all aspects of his BMX racing and downhill for six years and he is the most talented rider I have ever seen," said Gerdsen. "He's the type of guy that can show up to anything involving two wheels and make anyone look bad.
The Enduro should be a good test. This will be the first event he will participate in that involves endurance. His skill level will not be matched, but it will be interesting to see Hayden challenge himself at a whole different level in terms of going the distance.
Corey has assisted Jude with training and bike setup as he transitions to the mountain bike category.
"But the rest is up to him. He works long hours and also needs to keep riding BMX as this is number one in his eyes. But Hayden has been given a great opportunity and has a massive carrot dangling in front of him if he is able to perform to his ability.
"He has the potential to be in the top 15 if he commits himself over the coming weeks."