Over the years, like all the most challenging events in the world, the Crocodile Trophy has accumulated a lot of myths about it. It’s nothing but dry desert roads. You won’t get a shower. You might get bitten by a snake. At least two of these are myths. Now let’s bust some more.
The Croc is roughing it all the time
Not true! These days you’ll only really need to camp for a few of the nine stages if you really prefer a roof over your head. The race starts in one of Australia’s most famous resort towns, Cairns, then heads to Lake Tinaroo, where there are simple but cosy cabins. After that, there’s two nights in Atherton before heading to Irvinebank, a bit more ‘out of the way’. If you have a car you can stay another night at Atherton, or Herberton, perhaps.
Stage 6 presents the opportunity to have a truly outback experience, and that goes for all the native city-dwellers (like the Aussie team at MarathonMTB), too. At a real outback station, you’ll have hot showers and real toilets, but tonight’s your night to try camping under the stars. There are probably some options to stay in cabins and motels at Granite Gorge and Wetherby, but many riders prefer the convenience of camping at race central during these stages, before the race ends in the resort town of Port Douglas, where any variety of accommodation is available – from backpackers’ hostels to 5-star luxury hotels. For those who cannot abide the idea of camping, why not try the ‘Taste the Croc’ option, racing stages one and two between Cairns and Lake Tinaroo, thanks to Cairns MTB Club.
I won’t get a shower for days
You will always get a shower… They may not always be hot, but don’t worry, most riders appreciate the chance to cool off from the usually warm stages. Part of the mobile camp setup includes a six headed shower, which will be put into use if other shower facilities are not available.
There might not be enough food or water
There are regular feed zones throughout each stage, just as you’d expect at any marathon or stage race. At camp, there’s your typical athlete’s food and plenty of it, all prepared for you by an Austrian chef who is flown over to Australia each year to make sure the race is well catered. There is a big meal for when you finish, and then again for dinner. You can expect plenty of pasta, rice, fresh fruit and vegetables, and meat (you can even try kangaroo). For breakfast there’s coffee (instant, unless you bring your own device, like we will!), cereal, fruit, bread, often pancakes, milk, etc. Nobody goes hungry at the Croc, and some have even been known to over-indulge!
The stages are so hard, I probably won’t finish
The Croc is the oldest marathon mountain bike stage race in the world, and has evolved considerably over time. It might have been too challenging for some in the beginning, when riders raced between Alice Springs and Cairns, which is a bit like riding from Paris to Moscow (except much hotter). These days there is a cross-country stage to start and shorter days overall. The race covers 770km in 9 days, and climbs over 17,000m of elevation. This is not dissimilar to South Africa’s Joberg2c, and while it’s a hundred or more kilometres longer than famous European races such as Transalp, there’s less climbing, and less bitumen road and bike path. If you’re a little hesitant, or want to see what the race is like, again, the ‘Taste the Croc’ option may be for you, racing stages one and two between Cairns and Lake Tinaroo.
I might run into a Kangaroo and break my bike
It’s unlikely. In fact, although the Australian outback and rainforest are teeming with wildlife, you’ll probably be too busy trying to hang onto a wheel or clean a technical climb to notice, although we’d hope you look around you once in a while to take it in.
I might get eaten by a croc
See above – although if uncertain of whether you can swim in the water, the backpackers who help commandeer the kitchen will normally be in the water first anyway.
I might get bitten by a snake
Only if you wear thongs in long grass.
The Croc is like a road race. There isn’t any singletrack
Again, this might have been the case years and years ago, when bulldust and corrugations were the distinguishing features of the race. Over the years, and thanks in part to the Croc, Cairns and its surrounding areas have become one of Australia’s mountain biking hotspots, and Aussies love singletrack. Riders from the last few years have all commented on the diversity of trails that the Croc covers, and competitors will experience a huge variety of terrain.
Apart from racing on the Cairns World Cup course on the first day of the race, competitors can sample some of hundreds of kilometres of singletrack purpose-built by the famous World Trail team, who also worked on the Cairns course. There are some dirt roads, some dust, and some corrugations, but the trails also include dramatic rainforest roads, old jeep trails, sand tracks, and historic bullock routes. Plus of course superb singletrack.
There’s nothing for my family to do
Far North Queensland is one of Australia’s most popular holiday destinations, both for visitors from overseas and locals. Around Cairns is the world’s largest coral reef, the Great Barrier Reef, the World Heritage Daintree Rainforest, wildlife parks, natural lakes, waterfalls, the scenic railway, museums and galleries. The family can easily fill nine days here, but save a bit of fun up, your family’s competitor will also want to spend a couple of days enjoying Port Douglas after the race!
It’s so hot and dry, I won’t be able to cope
While there’s no denying that the Croc can be hot, and probably will be, there’s lots of opportunity to escape and cool down, in lakes, under a refreshing shower, and in the cool shade of the rainforest, where more than half the race is held.