The 20th Crocodile Trophy has begun! The iconic trails of Smithfield mountain bike park, just north of Cairns, held the first stage of the Crocodile Trophy today. The mud from the World Cup in April has dried, and the course was twisty, flowing, dry, dusty – and pretty long considering it was a short stage.
With the UCI ranking comes extra regulations – but maybe some of them start tomorrow. The start line was along the gravel start finish straight used at the World Cup, with a chute for banners partway through. A nice funnel effect. We didn’t have a call up to split amateurs from elite, men from women, or even full distance from the Taste le Croc (2 stage) option. And some vintage Italian rider figured he’d just start 5m ahead of everyone else at the side in the shade.
But the gun went, and it was racing as usual. The fastest wins. It was the typical sound of a frantic start. Pedals clipping in, gravel flicking around, people crunching through gears, someone’s freehub pawls clearly not engaging very well (always get in front of that sound), some swearing… but certainly no freewheeling.
We had a short start loop, with some carnage, disagreements, and a lot of BPM and watts used up. From what I could see Cory Wallace was leading down the first straight, but my overly enthusiastic start didn’t last long, as I faded back through the field.
Smithfield is a gift for Cairns based mountain bikers, or anyone who ventures up here. Sure, it’s got World Cup level XCO and DH courses. But is also has 60km of purpose built singletrack. This is a very fun place to ride your bike, and it’s awesome to race on. Laps were 7km, and didn’t take in any of the gnarly features of the World Cup XCO course like the Croc Slide or Jacob’s Ladder. But it was fast and fun, and a great way to start a 9 day race.
Ivan Rybarik won the men’s event, and despite saying he doesn’t feel as strong as two years ago due to having a wife and two kids, the Czech teddy bear looks fast and fit enough to just about anyone you ask. Ivan beat Milton Ramos and Greg Saw. Portuguese Olympian David Rosa blew his freehub to bits and ran some laps but ended up having a chat to the UCI official and finished last.
Cory Wallace was a little off the pace, but was his typical laid back self, “I’ve just been on the road a lot lately, but tomorrow’s a new day” said Wallace.
Our own Imogen Smith, from the Subaru-MarathonMTB.com team won the women’s race, although she was looking forward to a good race with local Jasmin McMillan. McMillan has just signed with the Specialized-Securitor road team. “I was hoping to see how a fit road racer would go against a pretty tired mountain biker. But unfortunately Jasmin had a mechanical so was behind early on. I didn’t know for the first few laps but someone told me, so I sat up a bit. We’ll see what tomorrow brings” said Smith. McMillan is only racing the first two stages, but perhaps she is just gaining a taste?
There’s a lot of noise about uneven prize money in women’s sport. And rightly so. But it’s a shame to see the Crocodile Trophy offer stage prize money equal to the men’s for 1st-5th (men’s continues to 10th) and overall for the top 10 (although just a third of the amount). But there will be a lot of unpaid prize money, as women aren’t turning up. So women’s cyclists – what’s stopping you?
Full results are online