The hardest, longest mountain bike race in the world! The event sees some of the world's best, and bravest, mountain bikers tackle the Australian Outback over 9 stages, a total of 855 km and 15,300 metres of vertical climbing!
... the story of the Crocodile Trophy I first had the idea of organising a Tour de France type of cycle race for mountain bikes in 1993.
Originally, the longest and most difficult mountain bike race was not supposed to take place in Australia but in Vietnam. It was to be a race starting in Saigon and ending in Hanoi 18 days and 2500 km later. After spending two weeks in Saigon, I realized it would be not be possible to organise such an event in the way I visualised it there.
Australia, where I had been active as a professional cyclist from 1982-1985, and where I was a house owner at that time was the perfect alternative. We flew to Darwin in the Northern Territory, studied the most accurate maps, and finally decided on the route between Darwin and Cairns. In Darwin we collected as much information as we could on the route from the Tourist Board, the Police and the Ranger Station. After a few days we thought we knew all that had to be known, even though the information was quite scanty. We were also advised to obtain further tips from the farms on the way.
We left Darwin in an all-terrain vehicle packed with food and water, and headed towards the Kakadu National Park, a world heritage site and one of the most beautiful nature parks in the world. The most difficult part was to find routes and tracks which were difficult to master but still could be ridden on a mountain bike. The individual stages had to be less than 180 km, which was not always possible as we soon found. Sometimes there was no farm, water station or even a river at the end of such a distance.
Searching for a name for our event, we went through all the Australian animals, from Koala GP to Kangaroo Challenge, but nothing felt right till the third or fourth evening. We were camped on the river bank having a few glasses of wine and tossing around ideas for a name, when the warning sign board “Don’t Swim - Crocodiles” struck us. We finally had the name for our event. The “Crocodile Trophy” was born.
Crocodile Trophy - Stage 9
Hope Vale – Cooktown
The final stage of the Crocodile Trophy was upon us. A group of the slower riders had set off half an hour earlier, just as they had done in previous days. After a short neutralised start, the peloton increased the pace and I moved into a safe position near the head of the field. Matt Page, from Wales, attacked off the front with one other rider but there were cries from behind to slow down. Two riders had come together at the back of the bunch, the big Czech Radim Novotny, crashing heavily, and so the race was neutralised for a second time.
At about twelve kilometres into the race, I was following in about fifth wheel, when there was an unwelcome hiss as my rear tyre punctured. I pulled over to the left, and the whole peloton waved me goodbye for the second day running. This was my first mechanical problem on the road (I had replaced the bearings in my bottom bracket after the Time Trial in Laura) so I had been quite fortunate up to this point. I used a CO2 cannister, hoping the tyre had sealed, but the Stan’s sealant was spraying out. I repaired the tyre, probably not nearly as quickly as I should have been able to, and set off alone. I hoped I would catch some riders at the Depot at the thirty kilometre mark.
After twenty kilometres I spotted the red and white shirt of Zbigniew Mossoczy, who was running with his bike. His free hub had seized up. I thought he would have an extremely long day ahead. I then passed an Italian female cyclist, who was also fixing a puncture and seemed pretty unhappy with the whole situation. I passed through a rainforest area with a creek crossing and a warning sign about crocodiles being in the vicinity. This was one place I didn’t want to become stranded.
At the Depot, there were a number of riders, and I passed straight through. Ahead, I spotted Kristof, but he was holding his left arm awkwardly and had bandages and blood on his elbow. He had crashed badly, hitting a hole which he couldn’t see for all the dust being thrown up from all the riders ahead. (I later found out that he had needed stitches within the torn muscles of his arm). We turned onto the sealed road and, by this time, our group had swelled to eight riders. With a strong headwind we began to rotate as a pace line. This was hard work, but clearly too much for some, and the eight were reduced to two.
As we started the hundred metre climb to the top of the hill, I passed another rider from the Amy Gillett team, holding his arm across his chest. He was another victim of this day of carnage, and had broken a bone in his wrist. The climb proved tough and it was a relief to get to the steps and the final walk to the finish. The Crocodile Trophy was over.
I finished in fifth place in M2 and 22nd overall. Pete finished 17th and Martin 26th and the Il Pastaio / Rocky Trail Racing Team finished second, only to the Tenni/'s - Cairns Home Loans Team of Elite riders. On final reflection, this has been a great experience and, being my first ever stage race, I have learnt some valuable lessons. I have been able to identify some areas of weakness and this is what I will target in my future training. I would certainly welcome the opportunity to tackle one of the many great stage races which are run around the world in the near future.
Crocodile Trophy - Stage 8
Laura – Hope Vale (113 km / 1100 m)
This 113 kilometre stage involved travelling almost the first seventy on flat, wide corrugated dirt roads and so it would be important to stay in the peloton for as long as possible. Our team plan was to attack early and try to make a break from the main group in order to give Martin a chance to move up the M1 classification. However, Peter, Martin and I were able to stay out in front for only a short period of time but this was still long enough for a photograph of us leading the chasing pack, which should please our sponsors.
The usual chaos ensued at the first feed station. On the approach, the pace quickened but I was able to propel myself to the front and to one of the first taps. I managed to get away in the first of the chasing groups. As the groups merged, I relaxed a little too long near the back and I was spat out soon after. Race leaders Mark Frendo and Cory Wallace were once again caught out, but when I tried to re-join with their chasing group, that also included Martin Wisata and New Zealander, Hamish Morrin, I just couldn’t maintain the pace for the ten minutes required and I was once again chasing shadows. To make matters worse, I now had a head wind to contend with for the next thirty kilometres. I ground away, alone, until I reached Depot 2. A group were closing albeit fairly slowly from behind.
As the road became slightly hillier I was caught by a group of around five riders. They were swapping turns but the speed was fairly ‘casual’. I decided to go my own pace up the small climbs and see who was strong enough to come with me. Kristof Roelandts, Andy Tubbs and Christian Wenger (who had crashed right in front of me on an early water crossing) all managed to break away. We were able to stay together on the first of the bigger climbs, before only Kristof and I remained. As the descents increased, we were able to increase the speed and swap turns to reduce the draining effect of the headwind.
Approaching the finish, we decided we would cross the line together. This was not a particularly difficult stage in terms of terrain, but losing the peloton after only thirty kilometres with long, straight flat roads and a headwind made it far more tiring for me. I finished the race in ninth (M2) and 31st overall. I am still fifth in M2 and 21st overall, while Pete is 15th and Martin is 26th.
Crocodile Trophy - Stage 7
Laura – Laura (38 km Time Trial)
I’ve only ever done one Time Trial in my life and that was not particularly successful. It is known as the ‘race of truth’ for good reason. There is no hiding, no drafting behind stronger and faster riders. You simply push your body to its absolute limits and maintain a high speed and high heart rate throughout the duration of the event, which usually causes the maximum amount of suffering. Andy Schleck would probably have experienced an even more successful career, but for his Achilles heel of the time trial. For me, I knew that this was a day I would lose time on the riders around me.
Once again, I got some excellent information from Pete Selkrig on how to most successfully ride a time trial. Push a higher gear than I would in a race, keep a high average heart rate and maintain a low, aerodynamic position wherever the track allowed. Despite this, I was not confident and, before the start, I was far more nervous than normal.
After a quick video interview with Gerhard, the race organiser, I prepared to start and bring on the pain. I tried to apply the advice I had pre-race and went about bringing my heart rate to around 160 beats per minute. But this never happened. I immediately hit the corrugations and began to struggle to keep my rhythm. I had a one minute gap on the following rider but within a few kilometres I was overtaken. Three riders came by, shortly followed by a flying Pete, who was to finish ninth overall on the stage.
By this time, I was on the bush trails and the terrain I was more used to. My heart rate reached 140 but I could not increase it further. I was ploughing through the deep sandy sections being reasonably successful at locating the best lines and I was not to be overtaken until the very end. With this stage only being 37 kilometres, I hoped I could limit my time losses. I entered the last section, which was the original road with the corrugations and three of the fast elite riders came past. I was able to finish faster than I had been during the rest of the race, spurred on by the others.
I finished ninth in M2 and 36th overall, which represented my worst finishing position throughout the whole race. I remain fifth overall in M2 and dropped one place to 21st in the overall standing. After Pete’s excellent performance, he remains sixteenth overall, while Martin unfortunately missed placing on the podium in M1 by two seconds and remains in 25th overall.
Crocodile Trophy - Stage 6
Granite Creek Dam – Laura (116 km / 1800 m)
Similarly to the last couple of days, the peloton moved away from the start as a fast-moving group, with the speed being punctuated by sudden surges of pace. After approximately fifteen kilometres the rolling hills were briefly replaced by a longer steeper climb and the group fractured completely. I was left stranded once again unable to claw my way onto the back of the final group of five riders. Once again, the peloton was gone and I was isolated for a period of time, until I was joined by M2 rival Kristof Roelandts.
Before we arrived at the second Depot, we rode close together and were also joined by an M1 Austrian rider, who appeared to be having trouble with some of the more technical pinch climbs and therefore I assumed he was probably a road rider. After Depot 2, I was able to move away from these two, and started to pick up a few more riders ahead. Unfortunately, Depot 2 had been moved five kilometres forward, and with fifteen kilometres to go before the next Depot, I had totally drained my water. Furthermore, this whole section was the most challenging of the stage with several steep climbs along the technical, but stunning, old gold mining trail.
I held the back wheel of two team riders that I had caught and hoped this would help pull me to the water stop. The sun was now high in the sky and temperatures were touching forty degrees. I was now starting to wilt in the heat. I asked for water from a camera crew at the top of a hill, and another rider but there was none to spare. Even though we were travelling downhill, the track was sandy and progress was slow and cumbersome. At last, we reached Depot 3, a most welcome site for the riders and quite a few had gathered there, obviously all experiencing the same problems; some had even submerged themselves in a nearby creek!
I tried not to spend too long, and guzzled as much water as my stomach could handle, refilled my two bottles and took a red bull for the next section. Two Austrian elite riders passed, including yesterday’s stage winner but I was unable to maintain their speed. Shortly after, I was able to hook onto two Belgium M1 riders and we began to swap turns as the road opened up. One of the riders was struggling with saddle soreness and so two of us took the major pace-making duties. A bee had flown into my open shirt and I was stung at least twice. I winced with pain and desperately opened my shirt in an attempt to release my insect intruder. I assumed the bee had escaped and resumed my pace-making duties. Our group stayed together until a couple of kilometres out when they took advantage of a roadwork and broke away. I finished alone but content, in 24th position for the stage.
I had been fairly tired after the long stage the day before and I had felt the drama of the barbed wire fence may have drained some energy, and so I was fairly content with my day’s work. Finishing eight minutes behind M2 rivals Peter Muhl and Zbigniew Mosoczy, has seen me drop to fifth in M2, three minutes behind Peter and two behind Zbigniew. I remain 20th in GC, with Pete (who was beaten by Daniele on the day) still 16th and Martin dropping one place to 25th.
Crocodile Trophy - Stage 5
Mt. Mulligan – Granite Creek Dam (163 km / 3000 m)
The initial 45 kilometres of this stage were played out in a fast-moving peloton which contained all the main contenders for overall honours. I am starting to learn the intricacies of this type of racing and I am also reaping the benefits of Pete Selkrig’s extensive knowledge of road racing from his previous experience as a professional rider. I was able to cope with the many surges in pace and was feeling reasonably comfortable until we approached the first of the five feeding stations. Pete warned me of what was about to happen but I was still caught out.
With the group being fairly large, riders were keen to get to the water and energy taps, fill their bottles, and leave quickly in order to remain in the main group. On viewing the Depot, I was suddenly swamped by nervous riders and then unable to get to the hydration taps. I left with two other riders, as well as Cory Wallace and Mark Frendo. While they were able to bridge the gap, I had to work excessively hard with the other two to catch up. The group did eventually sit up, but I was soon to pay dearly for the lost energy. Only a couple more surges and I was expelled from the back of the group, and left to ride alone for the next 22 kilometres. At Depot 2, I was caught by a group of five riders, including Martin, Andy, Liesbeth and Kristof.
We all took off together to tackle the steep climb ahead and almost immediately I found myself ahead of the other riders. Soon I was joined by ex-pro rider Daniele Bertozzi, and was able to hold his wheel for long enough to gap the riders behind. When I dropped back I was eventually joined by Austrian, Peter Muhl and we rode together for a long period of time. As we approached Depot 3, a gate lay ahead, slightly ajar. At the last moment, I thought I saw a gap to the other side and sped towards it at 40 km/h. The Marshall screamed out that it was a barbed wire fence which I just couldn’t see because of the glare of the sun and the sweat and dirt on my sunglasses. I braked hard and, although my bike stopped, I was catapulted onto the top of the fence. Blood oozed out of my left arm and leg and, at the nearby depot, as I had my bottles filled, the blood was washed away by the attending support crew.
I set off with Peter following behind and we swapped turns until we reached the dirt track and a multitude of hills. He was now struggling on the climbs and, as we approached a few riders ahead, he dropped back. I was alone again but riding reasonably strongly despite the heat. The blood had stopped and the body was actually feeling fine. As I approached the last depot, I was spotted by M2 rival Zbigniew Mossoczy and he shot off like a scolded cat. I filled up at the depot but I was not going to waste all my energy chasing too hard. He held the gap and I was able to finish fourth in M2 (20th overall), which was enough to move me back to third overall and 18th in GC. Pete is now 16th and Martin is 24th.
Crocodile Trophy - Stage 4
Irvinebank - Mt Mulligan (118 km / 1600 m)
Steep Learning Curve
I went into today’s stage feeling confident. My body was holding up pretty well to the gruelling ordeal of my first ever stage race. I had moved up in the overall standings to 21st and into third position in my M2 age category. My team mates, Pete Selkrig and Martin Wisata, were also riding strongly and the mood in the Il Pastaio / Rocky Trail Racing Team camp was veritably upbeat.
The start saw the riders move off in unison as a fast-moving pack. In appearance and tactically, this appeared not so much a mountain bike race but was much more reminiscent of a road race. Two riders made a break but the main contenders for overall honours decided to let them have their moment in the sun. With 118 kilometres of riding ahead, the chances were they would be reeled back in later in the day. A couple of surges were experienced within the chasing group but the pressure came off and we all came back together.
My lack of experience riding in pelotons was to cost me dearly not long after. I failed to spot Cory Wallace and Mark Frendo move to the front and, as the pace lifted, I started to drop back. Then it all suddenly happened. We hit a rough, steep hill and all my main rivals came flying through, leaving me desperately clawing at shadows. I was off the back and in no man’s land. I attempted to re-join the small group ahead but I realised that even this would not be possible and relented in my chase. Eventually, I was joined by Andy Tubbs, from the USA, and we were able to work together on the long dirt tracks.
This stage was played out over rough, rocky trails and several riders came to grief with punctures. Elite Welsh rider Matt Page punctured three times and lost thirty minutes on his rivals for overall honours. M2 rival, Zbigniew Mossoczy, from Poland, rode strongly all day, but also experienced two flat tyres. Each time I passed him, he would replace the tube and overtake so fast that I had no chance to jump on his wheel. After struggling on the first two days, he now seems to have adjusted to the extreme heat, and is riding more and more strongly each passing stage.
Approaching Depot 3, I was told by New Zealander, Steve Bunton, that team mate Martin Wisata was only two minutes ahead. If I could catch him at the depot, I would be able to work with him to the end and minimize my time losses on the day. Andy Tubbs was no longer with me, and so I picked up the pace alone and focussed on making it to Martin ahead. As I approached the Depot I saw three riders, one of which was Martin. I quickly transitioned and was soon leaving on the back of my trusty companion.
Martin put the hammer down and it was as much as I could do to just follow his tracks. The final thirty kilometres passed rapidly as I was towed to the finishing line at Mt. Mulligan. This was a great show of team work and I was the beneficiary of an abundance of selfless work by Martin. This certainly reduced the damage of my earlier error at the start of the race. We were to finish 24th for the stage. I lost only four minutes on a couple of my main rivals to drop to fifth, while Austrian, Peter Muhl, moved to third in M2. Pete Selkrig was finally made to work for his boomerang, after ex-pro road rider Danielle Bertozzi from Italy pushed him to an outstanding fifth place for the stage. Pete is now 16th, I am 21st and Martin 24th in the overall, while in the team classification, the Il Pastaio / Rocky Trail Racing Team is sitting comfortably in second.
Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day for me, which sees the riders tackle the Queen Stage from Mt. Mulligan to Granite Creek Dam. The 163 kilometres involves 3000 metres of climbing and the road book describes it as ‘rough and unbelievably hilly’.
Crocodile Trophy - Stage 3
Atherton - Irvinebank (80 km / 2500 m)
Pre-race talk centred around the difficulty of the course and it was expected that today’s stage would be as unpleasant as the previous day. The initial climb, which was used during the Marathon Championship in April, was to be repeated twice and it came with a reputation for being a destroyer of bodies and minds. Furthermore, one of the descents was extremely steep and reputedly covered with large boulders and bike swallowing holes. Before we set off on the neutralised nineteen kilometre section, the sky clouded over and the rain started to fall. The peloton moved off in anticipation of the pain to follow.
The start of the race was fairly comfortable and the first flat section resulted in a group of thirty riders working together in a fast-moving compact group. At this point, I was sitting at the back and quite enjoying the tow from ahead. But we were soon to hit the first long fireroad climb, where the group swiftly splintered, and the main contenders began to disappear into the distance. By this time, the rain had stopped but the remaining cloud cover was keeping temperatures bearable.
At the top of the climb we turned left into the new Atherton Forest Mountain bike trails and the purpose-built downhill. I would have really enjoyed this, but for the fact my second water bottle constantly jumped from its cage. I knew that the temperature was sure to rise and I was not going to risk dehydration and so I stopped three times to pick up the hydration vessel in the knowledge I was losing time on my competitors ahead.
I managed to close on a group of three riders and entered the singletrack in better spirits. A couple of riders had come to grief in this section including third placed rider, Austrian, Christian Wenger, in my M2 category. Following this fast and flowy section, we made our second visit to the fireroad hill climb. I overtook a number of riders, who had passed me on the downhill track, including teammate Martin Wisata. At the top of the climb, I found myself with Belgium riders, Kristof Roelandts, and female race leader Liesbeth Hessens. As the race transpired, we were to stay and work together for the rest of the day.
A few shorter climbs were negotiated until we topped out at 1200 metres and began a number of steep descents. Fortunately, these were not as rough as predicted earlier, and progress was made without any mishaps. During the final 35 kilometres, my Belgium counterparts and I shared the pace-making, swapping turns of pace at the front of our group of three. I was amazed at how strong Liesbeth was on the flatter sections, and she was keen to drive the group for extended periods of time.
I knew Kristof was breathing down my neck in the M2 General Classification and so this stage would provide an indicator of who was the strongest at this point. I tried to break away from the Belgium duo several times but they would eventually reel me back in. Now Kristof was refusing to hit the front and would take shelter behind us. I decided I could not break this Belgium partnership and I would have to wait to the finish and take it to a sprint. As we climbed the last short hill, I set off for the line but Kristof was able to come over the top and take fifth place for the stage and 20th overall.
Unlike the dire predictions of the morning, this stage proved to be extremely enjoyable for most of the riders. Cory Wallace was able to utilise his superior mountain bike skills and take first place in the elite category. In M2 I moved into third place overall, mainly due to Christian Wenger’s crash. Only 13 minutes separates third through to sixth so the last spot on the podium is still wide open. Peter Selkrig cruised to victory in M3 to earn a hatrick of boomerangs while Martin Wisata finished sixth in M1 and moved up to fifth overall.
Tomorrow, sees the riders travel 118 kilometres from Irvinebank to the working Cattle Station at Mt. Mulligan. With only 1600 metres of climbing and an altitude drop of nearly 400 metres, this promises to be a slightly easier stage albeit across some extremely rough trails.
- Crocodile Trophy - Stage 2
- Baptism of Fire
If Stage 1 of the Crocodile Trophy was a taster in pain, then today's second stage was a veritable feast of suffering. The day started extremely serenely, with the riders being announced individually to the Cairns public, accompanied by a funky musical soundtrack, which culminated in Survivors 'Eye of the Tiger' that had a number of riders rocking in unison. A police escort guided the multi-cultural pelaton through the main streets of Cairns and to the lower realms of the first big climb. There was a brief interlude as all the riders gathered at the official start line of the day.
As is normal in these races, the start was explosive and my heart rate was soon caressing its near maximum, particularly as the road continued to point skywards. It wasn't long before the riders had splintered into smaller groups, as each rider searched for some solace from following closely behind the rider ahead. A scattering of short descents provided temporary relief before more leg power was required to continue the conquest upwards. Another slightly longer descent seemed to provide some respite but the mountain had withheld its worst to last. The asphalt turned to gravel and then the steepness of the climbs brought many of the riders around me to their knees, forced to push their bikes up the forbidding hills. I was able to maintain traction on the climbs only a little longer than most. Even walking the bike up was blowing the heart through the chest. After what seemed like an eternity, the mountain withdrew its fury and levelled out. One of the riders close to me claimed this was the slowest 20 kilometres they had ever ridden and another referred to the last moments of our torture as 'bike trekking'.
My teammate, Martin Wisata, came past me on reaching Depot 1 where I was able to quickly consume around two bottles of energy drink. My right thigh had already started to cramp and the rest of the ride would need to be approached in a manner that would allow me to nurse my already aching body to the finish over sixty kilometres away. The thirty kilometres between Depot 1 and 2 were far more satisfying for me, and I was able to move steadily through the field. I worked with Andreas Ueberrhein from Germany and we started to close on Martin ahead. Suddenly, a hissing emanated from Andreas's back wheel and he had to pull over to repair a rear puncture. Once I overtook Martin, I expected him to jump on my wheel, but when I looked around he was gone. I later found out, he had broken a spoke early on, which had affected his descending as well as his mental fortitude. By the time I reached the second depot, I was making good progress and I was actually enjoying myself once again.
The final hill was long but not as brutal as the first. I was suffering occasional spasms of pain in my thigh but I was coping with the problem without losing too much time. I settled into a rhythm and crested the climb without too much anguish. The descent was fast and required caution. I kept telling myself not to take any risks because it is a long race and a few seconds gained is not worth the consequences if a mistake is made. I was alone now as I turned onto the road which cicumnavigates Lake Tinaroo. This is where I thought I had really blown my race. I passed a junction but was not really paying attention. Surely this was not an official turn-off. I rode five kilometres but there were no race signs. I did see a small pink ribbon on the other side of the road but perhaps it was from a previous race. Twelve kilometres past and I now thought I was going the wrong way. If I turned now I would have to climb back up to the original turn-off and lose at least 25 minutes. I decided to continue on. And then a Crocodile Trophy sign appeared. My swearing turned to cheers of unbridled elation. I felt invigorated and powered through the final ten kilometres to the finish.
Having lost time at the start, I was pleased to have finished sixth in age and 28th overall thereby holding fourth place in the overall age category. Team mate, Pete Selkrig smashed his 50+ opposition to finish first for the second day running and Martin finished a respectable seventh. Tomorrow will be a similarly tough day, as the steep hills of Atherton await.
Crocodile Trophy - Stage 1
- Smithfield (Cairns) 5 Laps (35 km / 900 m)
Il Pastaio / Rocky Trail Racing TeamArriving in Cairns on Tuesday, Pete Selkrig and I were soon to meet up with Martin Wisata, the third member of the Il Pastaio / Rocky Trail Team. The next four days would be devoted to preparing as fully as possible for the 900 km of gruelling torture which would unfold over nine consecutive days in the hot and humid tropical conditions of far north Queensland. Both Pete and I had just competed in WEMBO's 24 hour solo event two days earlier and so a rapid recovery was essential.
My first impressions of the other riders was one of awe. There were so many Europeans, many with strong road backgrounds, and I instantly feared the worst, believing I was probably way out of my depth. An early training ride with some of the Austrian's confirmed my worst fears. These Europeans meant business. The next few days involved acclimatising to the heat and humidity and a more sedate training ride with 24 hour solo specialist Cory Wallace from Canada and elite rider Mike Blewitt. By Friday, we were all becoming restless and were looking forward to the start of the race and the opportunity to assess what appeared to be formidable opposition.
SmithfieldA 16 km ride from the centre of Cairns to Smithfield provided a perfect warm-up for the first stage of the Crocodile Trophy. The 70 plus riders looked anxious and the nerves were palpable. At last, we were called to the start line and the beginning of the first phase of the race was imminent. I glanced down at my Garmin and my heart rate had almost doubled. Suddenly, the elite riders surged from the start line and I was catapulted forward in hot pursuit. At the entry to the singletrack, New Zealand's Hamish Morrin appeared over my left shoulder but suddenly he lost traction and hit terra firma. Only minutes later, one of the female riders was also making a hasty acquaintance with the dirt. Luckily, I was ahead of the chaos and proceeded to hunt down the early pace-setters ahead.
Anticipating the StartThe iconic trails of Smithfield will be utilised for the UCI World Cup in 2014 and it is clearly evident why. The trails are a pleasure to ride, with only a few short pinch climbs and flowy descents which incorporate a large number of lovingly constructed berms. Despite the hot conditions, with temperatures reaching 30 degrees, the tree cover and breeze provided enough protection to allow the speed of the race to remain high. During the final three laps, I had found a solid rhythm, and was picking off a number of the European riders who had wilted in the heat. It was necessary to drink plenty of fluids and I was able to find enough opportunities on track to keep my fluid levels adequately topped up.
Discussing Race TacticsOn reaching the finish line, I was shocked to find I had finished fouth in M2 (40-50 years), only three and a half minutes behind Hamish in first, and six minutes ahead of fourth. I also learnt that one of the favourites for my category, Austrian Wolfgang Mader, had crashed early, broken his finger and was unable to complete the first lap.
Team mate Pete Selkrig, despite a fall, had finished in first, two and half minutes ahead of his nearest rival in M3 (50+) while Martin Wisata had accomplished a highly respectable fourth in M1. In the General Classification, Pete is 25th (1.47.30), Martin 26th (1.47.59) and I am 27th (1.48.38).
Tomorrow will provide an all together different test, with the Crocodile Trophy travelling from Cairns to Lake Tinaroo. Eighty nine kilometres of racing and 2500 metres of vertical ascent await the riders, incorporating very steep climbs and descents. The Euro Roadies will be more at home on these roads and I expect some big changes to the overall classification.