The true Crocodile Trophy starts on day 2, with a neutral start from the Esplanade in Cairns, before the race starts properly at the foot of the climb to Copperlode dam. It’s not an easy stage. In fact, I think I said numerous times today that it’s one of the hardest point to point mountain bike races in Australia. I preached this fact at the start, in a small bunch on the climb, and to myself many times over through the course of the 95 odd kms and 2400m or so of climbing.
The race start was fast. Within about 300m I was in about the 4th group, and slowly but surely moving backwards. While there had been rain in the morning it was now dry, but there was quite a stiff wind, even in the shelter of the forest on the road climb.
From spectators on the dam wall, they said the front group were sprinting up the steep ramps like they were only 30m climbs. I was riding it with other Australian based riders like Grant Webster, Andrew Lloyd, Jindra Knot and Tim ‘Cupcake’ Goulding. The first road climb isn’t too hard, but the dirt climbs after the dam wall are super steep, and really take a toll on your legs.
We all hit the farm roads and a block headwind, and formed a good group. In these situations peoples riding background becomes evident. Clearly Webster has done many road miles as he was impeccably stable on the bike, consistent with his long turns, and gave advice to others on how to keep our fantastic five together.
Soon after depot 2, it was about to break up. The second climb as you approach Mt Edith is actually pretty easy. The gradient is low, and I’m certain with good legs you’d ride over it in good time. I’ve never had that opportunity. Despite putting a lot of food and liquid in my cake hole all morning I had nothing. And as Webster, then Lloyd, Goulding and Knot rode away – I couldn’t fight the drop to crawling pace. And it was like that for a long time.
Marathon and stage racing offers a lot of different things to different people. It’s not a part of cycling that everyone likes. But that’s ok, there are other disciplines. But today I really scraped the barrel to find something positive as my legs were dead. Experience? No, I’ve been here before. Training? Not really, I don’t think 9 days back to back will do me much good right now. The challenge? Well sort of, my main challenge was not unclipping and walking.
The main thing I focused on was a little more removed. I was riding my mountain bike. It was a pretty nice day, I’d chosen to do this, with full knowledge of what was involved – so why not just suck up this momentary lull and get on with it. Grin and bear it and so on. So I did! I knew that it would end, I would top out at about 1200m and get a long descent then a ride along the lake. I can do that.
And then I broke a spoke.
Nevertheless I made it to the end, uneventfully, slowly, and painfully. But the front of the race was quite different.
Greg Saw took a emotional win. While he’s based in Norway and has lived there for about 10 years, he grew up near Tinaroo and Atherton, so this was about as close to a home town win as he’ll get. He beat Milton Ramos and a fast finishing Ivan Rybarik to the line. The race leader had a flat in the final stages, and chased hard to over take a rejuvinated Cory Wallace.
He race is now camped on the shores of Lake Tinaroo. The showers are setup outside for the full Euro experience, the mechanics have Tiesto on loop, and the masters Euro athletes are washing their bikes impeccably. Most Australians are lazing around.
Tomorrow we roll to Atherton MTB Park, and take on three laps of the trails there. Almost all singletrack, and maybe with some pretty epic bottlenecks. The riding will be great, almost all singletrack. But it will be hard, and taxing. This is no Soft Trophy.