Stage 2 of the Crocodile Trophy tends to be when the race truly gets underway – or so say many of those riders who have completed the race before. Unlike Stage 1, which is an XCO race within Smithfield Mountain Bike Park, Stage 2 has a end off from the Esplanade in Cairns. With a police escort and neutral roll out, the whole race rides to the base of the Copperlode Dam road, to start officially on the route to Lake Tinaroo.
Day 2 at the Crocodile Trophy
Just like Stage 1 is longer than you’d expect for a 30km race, with getting there, getting back to your accommodation, packing up what you need and what you’ll send to Port Douglas, and generally dealing with the confusion of racing at lunch time – the second stage is longer than what’s on paper.
Slated as a 67km route with 1900m climbing (yes, that’s a lot of climbing for that distance) it’s actually 79km with 2100m of climbing. Plus, you need to arrive at the start early to load your luggage, and be ready for the 9:30am rollout, to then restart on the road climb once the road is clear of vehicles. So, there’s lots of chamois time before the gun even goes – especially if you’ve ridden in from your accommodation.
Having raced the Crocodile Trophy a few times before, this stage’s proper start was the most chilled I have ever been in. While Ondrej Slezak fired it up a little at first, in time it was Grant Webster and Erik Dekker off the front. Erik rolled strong turns, Webster did what he could – by his own admission.
I aimed to ride to a 160bpm average and moved backwards on the climb at first, then forwards, sitting in what was apparently the third group. Groups didn’t exist for long once we crossed Copperlode Dam and got onto the offroad sections.
Climbing into the ranges
This part of the route always kills me. I felt ok, but I knew I was doing damage. With a 34t chainring and 11-46 spread I was over-geared for my ‘condition’. I rode all but about 2m but it was a lot of load on my legs, something they just aren’t accustomed to. But I wasn’t going to walk.
At this point, Dekker, Bouchard, l’Esperance were ahead with Ondrej Slezak just behind. The next group had Alex Malone with Grant Webster and Daniel Beresford. Malone managed to end up alone.
After aid station one, the route took a new course, with lots of loose pinch climbs and sharp little descents. In time we hit the dirt road that goes past the Davies Creek trails and onto the service trail besides the aqueducts. I wanted to jump in.
In time, I had to chuck my bike under a gate that I assumed would be open. And later, another gate but with no sign. Given I was
b. Riding solo
c. Riding solo into a headwind
d. Not 100% sure if I was on route
Soon enough three riders came over the hill: Michael Kafka, Haley Smith and Peter Lister. Haley had the course GPX in her computer and we navigated from that to the next feed, and stayed together on the course. We caught the car marking the route, and played hopscotch with it. The gates were meant to be unlocked and their progress was severely hampered.
Choose your own adventure
I was suffering, and we heard riders were off course, and only one group was ahead. This is never a good situation in a stage race. What happens to rider’s times? How do you create an equitable solution? There is never a right answer save for not having it happen in the first place. I’ve heard a farmer moved some arrows but the problem seems more to do with not having access to the course due to the locked gates.
Our bunch blew apart and I was the last rider, and when we got into camp on the windswept shores of Lake Tinaroo there was much discussion about what had happened. Riders who had been in front of me at the start of the day crossed behind me. Riders who should have had a big gap had only just finished when I came in. Most riders from our group and back were all good.
We hit the showers, the cafe across the road for snacks, and consulted the organisation. Results have been amended. Anton Sintsov won the stage (he was first over the line) and Bouchard and l’Esperance were awarded the same time – they hadn’t been sent into the right finish chute. Dekker was 4th, Slezak 5th, Malone 6th and riders were slotted in to 10th place for what ‘should’ have been. From 11th back it was our group. You can see the amended results here.
As it was there is no change to GC, but a few people a little miffed. Some people have extra kilometres in their legs. The full GC is online too.
What’s next in the Crocodile Trophy
In short – a bloody hard stage. Tomorrow we take off from Tinaroo to Tepon. Much of this will be new to me but it looks like we shoot off on trails below the dam and head further inland, before climbing into the back of the Cloud Mountains behind Atherton, looping behind Herberton, coming in pretty close to Herberton and finishing in Tepon. 100km and 2600m of vertical ouch.
It’s quiet in camp. Everyone is making sure they are set for tomorrow. I know I’m a little concerned!