Crocodile Trophy Round 3

The Crocodile Trophy is one of my favourite MTB races in the World, right up there with the adventures of the Mongolia Bike Challenge.  Racing 9-days through the jungle and dry Outback from Cairns to Cooktown in North Eastern Australia is something which is getting better every season I return (x3).  This year the race was more dialled then ever with virtually flawless organization and a great format with 2 single track days, 3 days offering rough mining trails, 1 epic queen stage, a time trial, and then two roadie type stages to cap it off.  In my mind the diversity of the Crocodile is second to none and offers something for everyones talents, it is though a true mountain biker which will win the race as the technical parts are long and challenging.

The prep days in Cairns before the race are always rad as the town is a tourist haven with thousands of backpackers from around the World creating a small festival atmosphere.  Staying with UK 24 hr specialist and all young great guy Matt Page was a solid time as we both tried to get over the effects of racing the 24 hr Worlds 5 days before.  We had a few rides, got ill 2 times from over drinking fresh beet juice, had 1 great Kangaroo BBQ with my Dad and Eileen and then it was off to the races.

Stage 1- 30 km XC race in Smithfield (Home of a 2014 XCO World Cup)-  This race I was hurting, it wasn’t as bad as previous years but I still don’t have the recipe down for recovering from a 24 hr race in 5-days.  I will need to get some tips from World champ Jason English.   That being said the diesel engine was solid and 1.5 hrs of racing seemed like a breeze to my head,  I came in 4th and lost 4 minutes to the leader Mark Frendo.  Not many knew about Frendo before the Crocodile but I figured he could be the guy to beat after racing him in Mongolia.  He was fast there and ready to claim 2nd overall before eating some bad yak poop and getting ill.  He has a pretty good history racing for the Aussie National XC team beating up on nearly everyone he ever raced and recently won his state road champs.  Yep he flew in under the radar for most but he is the real deal with no real chinks in his armour except for his lack of mountain bike stage racing experience which I would hopefully take advantage of later on in the week.

Stage 2 is a classic as it races 100 km over jungle mountains, through agriculture land, some semi-outback shrubbery and then back over a 1000 m vert climb to a beautiful camp on the shores of lake Tinaroo.  On the final climb, Austrian hill climb champ Josef Benetseder flexed his legs and dropped Mark and I.  I faded towards the end of the climb then lost over 3 minutes on a 20 minute descent.  This was where I saw Jason English launch himself over a poor car at 40 km/hr last year on a blind corner.  I couldn’t get that image out of my mind and raced like a panzy down the descent.  The mind is a crazy and powerful tool which plays weird games sometimes and must be harnessed if you are to race well for 9 days.  It won this battle, I made it down the descent safely and rolled in 7 minutes down from the leader Frendo as I was crawling the lat 10 km of flat pavement to the finish.  My Dad and Eileen were at the finish line which was pretty cool. We spent the afternoon watching fisherman haul massive Barramundi out of the lake during a fishing competition.  These fish have mouths large enough to eat a soccer ball and were sketchy as hell, they are one of the main fish dishes in Australia and are pretty harmless unlike everything else that moves in Oz.

Stage 3 was awesome as we raced the first 30 km of singeltrack on the National Marathon champs course before taking off on a hilly ride throughout the jungle and then popped out into the dry dusty outback for some stellar riding down some rolley quad paths.  This stage was one of the best all round stage race days I have ever ridden, that may be partly because it was also my first every stage win at the Croc after 3 years!  We finished off the day in the infamous hillbilly town of Irvinebank.  This town is well known for its pub, toothless dancers and the HillBilly goats band.  Camping in irvinebank is in experience you will never forget.

Stage 4 was also rad as we hit a hard technical quad trail at the start of the race which blew the peloton apart.   I was hitting every hill hard in an effort to crack Frendo.  Unfortunately I could crack everyone except him.  After the rough mining trail we hit 40 km of smooth riding, 20 km more of great outback quad trails and then 25 km flat to the finish.  We road in with a group of 4 with Euro pro road racer Jiri Krivanek and Mario from Austria.  It was an unfair finish as I knew it from the year before with it’s 2 blind tight turns on loose sand just before the finish.   I got worked over on this sprint in 2012, but took some lessons from it and worked over everyone else this year to take my 2nd stage win!  Wahoo.  It also meant I had gained a total of 3 seconds on Mark in the last two days.  If we raced for another year at this pace I would eventually take over his 11 minute GC lead.  The camp here was also great as we were beside a billabong and below a huge rock outcrop (Mt Mulligan). Some of the crew partied around a large bonfire with the local cowboys while most of us took in the peaceful setting to get rested up for the Queens  stage in the morning.

Stage 5 was mammoth.  173km, 3000 meters of vertical over 100 small climbs.  After 70 km of smooth riding to start the day we hit 100 km of nonstop interval training as we tackled endless climbs through some of the most beautiful outback scenery I’ve ever scene.  Austrian Roadie, Josef Benetseder attacked at km 1 on the day and built up a big lead as Mark and I watched each other as we both knew the hills on this day would likely decide the overall outcome of the race.  Jiri Krivanek and I started attacking at the start of the climbs and didn’t stop.  We were going at an unmanageable pace and weren’t going to get to the finish line if we kept it up.  Luckily he finally blew up, I put in 3 more efforts to drop Mark and then blew up myself with over 70 km to go.  The last 70 km we road in a weird state as we were both f’d up from the earlier attacks.  Luckily everyone else was screwed as well, except for Josef who made the wise move and raced sustainably all day to take a big win.  This day was unforgettable for a lot of riders, the landscape was wild with nothing but snakes and spiders running around and the relentless hills and heat made for one of my top 10 hardest days of racing ever.

Camp this night was at a cool little billabong, with fresh crocs in there.  The water was great for showering as it was chilled, but it only lasted for 3 minutes before the shower heads all got clogged with weeds and mud.  From that point on we showered with a garden hose.  Ahh, the glamours of mountain bike stage racing.  This was also the time when things started to fall apart around camp as riders were hitting there limits and no longer cared about much.  A couple riders were so blown when they crossed the line that they set up there beds in the middle of the luggage pile, not bothering to pack there bags 100 ft to there tent.  “Yeah mate, were laying it down where we find it tonight.”  Other riders started walking around camp in there underwear, and one guy changed out of his cycling gear after a 8 hr day, and put fresh gear on to hang out in for the evening.  Not sure what was going on there but I asked the doctors to check that guy out.  They didn’t worry to much about him as they were dealing with another fellow who was walking around like he had a stick stuck up his bum.  Some sort of  legendary saddle sore was the rumour.

Stage 6 is one of my favourites. The day started on 30 km of rolling hills through some beautiful untaimed outback scenery followed up by 35 km on a very rough old ancient Gold mining trail.  This trail is amazing as it winds and twists through very steep rocky hills, through little waterholes and into the real heart of the outback terrain.  It’s a blast to ride, except on this day as I attacked Mark until my legs begged for mercy.  Once again I managed to drop everyone except Mark who stuck to my wheel like a thorn.  Unfortunately he is also very good on the descents so I was coming up empty in my ways to drop him.  It came to the point where I was starting to ride some of the downhills irresponsibly over the sharp rocks hoping he would flat.   No luck.  This stage ended with a sprint finish, Mark and I went head to head and he got me by half a wheel.  With just a short time trial and two flat roadie days to go I knew my chances at the overall title were fading away unless Mark ate some more bad yak poop or had a mechanical.

Stage 7 was a 38 km time trial.  It was hot.  We spent the rest of the day eating ice creams and watching chickens run after each other as we ducked out of the 40 degrees heat.  On this day I learnt the Aussies really liked there golden Gaytimes.  I was sketched at first until I learnt these were a famous ice cream brand from there childhoods and not something else.

Stage 8- 120 km old school roadie Croc stage.  I used up the last of my power on the few hills this day to drop Mark but instead blew myself up and then Josef attacked on a solo breakaway.  I would chase for 20 km with Mark on my wheel but was underpowered from the previous 5 days of attacking and eventually sat up, letting the group behind catch up.  From here we rolled to the gorgeous town of Hope Vale.  A native village which I highly recommend you never go too, unless of course your there with the Crocodile organization and they can look after you.  There was a pool at this campsite which made for a glamourous afternoon.  That evening I sat around with Rocky Trail Entertainment organizers Juliana and Martin Wisata, eating a box full of left over protein and energy bars.  It was the highlight of the day.  

Stage 9 was a 50 km cruise to a 1.5 km climb up to the finish line at Grassy hill overlooking the ocean.  This finish line is one of the coolest places to end a race ever.  The stage itself was pretty tame as we cruised on some neat little backroads.  There were crashes all over the place for some reason this day as riders were falling over like dominos.  Must’ve been some bad water in Hope Vale. The final climb up to grassy hill decked us riders, but up top we were welcomed with a gorgeous view over the great barrier reef and some champagne to rehydrate with.  A unreal finish to another hell of a race.  Dad and Eileen came up to the hill and stuck around for a great afternoon of chillin.  They had spent the week exploring around the area and found some nice beaches near Port Douglas, a crocodile farm, train rides and lots of other fun in this tourist mecca.

Stage 10.  The Legendary Crocodile party on the ocean shores in Cooktown.  I finally managed to crack Mark on this stage.

Cooktown itself is a cool little town in far Northeast Queensland with a rich history as it was where James Cook shipwrecked the “Endeavour” there in 1770.  The town itself didn’t officially get recognized until 1873. Now it survives off its beautiful surroundings to attract some tourist dollars. 

Every Year the Crocodile gets a little more fun and it would certainly be on any list I would give someone of my top 3 races.  Next year they are talking bout making the race UCI sanctioned and bringing up the technical riding to 8 days with just one roadie day in there to mix it up.  This sounds like a winning combo.      Can’t wait for the next one!

Off to Taiwan for a  100 km Road hill climb. Oh boy.  Taiwan KOM

One Comment on “Crocodile Trophy Round 3”

  • isaac November 7th, 2013 12:33 pm

    Hey Corey,

    great having a read and making me laugh about our camp set up in the luggage area and the golden gay times!! no menation of my skimpy wear for stage 9 but anyway great blog big fella good luck and safe travels

Leave a Reply