The 2019 Crocodile Trophy will be treading new ground for the infamous mountain bike stage race – but after a look over the route one thing is for sure. It’s still got some of the most variety for any stage race we know, and is going to give Australian riders or visitors from overseas a complete taste of the terrain in Tropical North Queensland.
Stage One: Cairns to Ringers Rest – 84km | 1700m
There’s little change for the start. With a neutral roll out from The Esplanade in Cairns, wave goodbye to friends and family and bemused locals frolicking in the lagoon. The ride through town slowly takes you uphill to the start of the climb to Lake Morris. After a restart, this is where the action happens at the front of the race.
The climb is long at about 8.4km with an average gradient of 6%. Bear in mind it has a couple of small descents so it does get steep. It’s a road climb and it will be fast up front! There are two feed zones, but with some waiting ahead of the start pack extra fluid for the neutral ride – it’s a longer day than you might think.
Once you reach the lake and cross the dam you will be climbing again, on 4WD trails that get really steep. Like, 35%. Gear low for today if you have the option to drop your front chainring size by 2 teeth.
But once you’re back up higher, the rolling terrain takes you to Davies Creek MTB trails. They’re fast, purpose built and drifty enough in the dry to keep you on your toes. Next stop – Ringers Rest. Find the full stage plane online.
Stage Two: Ringers Rest to Ringers Rest – 76km | 1900m
You’re up on the plateau and even though your legs will be feeling day one – you have just started! Today you are riding the Mt Edith loop. The gradients aren’t as steep as day one but you will climb close to 1200m high. Did you expect to do that in the tropics?
The three climbs follow each other and while they all have a descent, the last one is the big one – and it takes you into a fast finish back to Ringers Rest, with a couple of bumps to climb along the way. Get the complete details online.
Stage Three: Ringers Rest to Wondecla – 74km | 1700m
Where is Wondecla? That’s what we wondered too, but it’s out the back of Herberton, which means one thing – time to go through the Misty Mountains.
After a flattish start, you’ll notice that you’re heading to the mountains on the horizon. Sitting behind Atherton MTB Park, the Misty Mountains do hold different weather, so be prepared for cool and moist conditions up top. Mt Baldy beckons and this climb sort out any group you might have formed.
Mt Baldy is the big one but you’ll be on a ridge line for a while, eventually dropping down on drier terrain, with more of the outback viewed in the distance. The full stage plan is online. This is another day with a significant amount of climbing for the distance travelled. That’s 3 in a row. You’re in Wondecla for two nights, so if you haven’t yet booked a massage, now is a good time.
Stage Four: Wondecla to Wondecla – 98km | 3200m
So you’ll notice that officially, the climbing is an estimate. Why? Well in remote areas like Tropical North Queensland, GPS mapping can suffer inaccuracies. In 2012 we raced a stage that had nearly twice as much climbing as anticipated – it was a new dirt road that had been put in for watching an eclipse, and there just wasn’t much data available.
So on this stage keep something in the tank. You’ll head back out the way you came in yesterday, and then into Atherton MTB Park for a 20km loop of singletrack. Yay! Singletrack! But… that means you’re working harder too. Stay smart and eat and drink early, look up and maintain your speed on the trails. Atherton has a good line of sight on most trails and you really want to be alert when you enter the park so you don’t waste energy.
Herberton National Park has at least 3 major climbs, and the back end of the stage is going to hurt people who got carried away in Atherton, or who have underfuelled. Don’t be that rider.
This is a big day on its own, and as a 4th stage in an 8-day event expect to feel pretty rubbish at the end. The Crocodile Trophy has had excellent food since 2012, so dig in and eat up! Take a closer look at the route online.
Stage 5: Wondecla to Skybury Coffee – 120km | 1600m
Sure it’s the longest stage yet, but you’ve got the hardest ones out of the way. If you haven’t been looking after nutrition, hydration and recovery you will not enjoy this day. If you are feeling rough, find the time for a proper warm up. It will help!
Rolling out of Wondecla you are heading west and into quite dry country. The climb up Mt Misery is long, and on tired legs it delivers on the name. But otherwise it’s nothing like some of the climbs on previous days. The descent towards Irvinebank is mostly fast, with a few opportunities to overcook corners if you’re tired.
Out of Irvinebank the going is tough. It can be hard to find a rhythm on the tracks that go up and down a lot with big ruts to catch you out. You descend out of this into farm land, flat roads and river causeways. It will be fast, and you will be rewarded by riding with others. The final push to Skybury coffee is uphill, with a small descent to finish. Go get a milkshake, coffee and cake! This stage is a classic Croc stage – get more details online.
Stage Six: Skybury to Skybury – 125km | 1200m
What we said earlier about variety? Well now you’re noticing it. Just days ago you were racing through World Heritage listed rainforest, and now you’ll be racing through terrain that wouldn’t be out of place in a Mad Max movie.
Don’t let the profile fool you, there’s stuff all climbing compared to earlier this week. The downside of that is if you haven’t prepared well, each rise will feel like a huge mountain to conquer. But you’re in a stage race. Don’t stop moving. Always keep moving forward, drinking and eating. This too shall pass.
This is a lolly pop loop. You head out to a loop and come back the same way. That loop you do starts on dirt roads and some double track, but ends up on cattle-worn singletrack. There’s plenty of stuff to reach out and grab a derailleur or handlebar, and natural gullies to pump your bike through or pop off to change lines. If you’re feeling good it’s a lot of fun and a good place to make a move on your rivals. Overall the day is pretty flat and the 125km should tick by pretty fast.
The finish is quick, but you might have some head wind. Find a group, make a pact. And know if it’s worth attacking them or staying together to the line. Take a look at the map online.
Stage Seven: Skybury to Hartley’s Crocodile Farm – 84km | 800m
So, day seven. You have been racing for a week and you’ll be happy to see a day with less than 1000m of climbing. The thing is, once you’ve got out of Skybury (which will be pretty fast and dusty), when you cross the highway you still have the range to go through.
But in a nice change from the previous days, you’re back in the rainforest! The trails can be wet but it’s not likely at this time of year, and with a good rock base laid over problem areas, the only thing slowing you down will be fatigue. Be prepared for some punctures on large rocks used to reinforce some dirt tracks, they can be sharp. The singletrack before the descent is mostly motorbike built, with long swooping corners and some ruts in sections. This part of the forest is pretty open – and a lot of fun!
The final descent is on a private road – the Crocodile Trophy organisation have been lucky enough to gain access to it. Get the full stage details online.
With the finish at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, here’s your chance for your photo holding a crocodile.
Stage Eight: Hartley’s to Port Douglas – 34km | 900m
The final stage has been a time trial since 2014, and this year the stage is dedicated to Greg Parr, who lost his battle with cancer last year. Greg had been involved with the Croc for years, and participated numerous times with his wife.
The route climbs back up almost 5km of Quaid road before turning into the Twin Bridges singletrack. It’s named for a couple of pretty sketchy log bridges, but in general the trail is an absolute blast to ride! The Bump Track awaits, which could be called the Pump Track for the top section, with easy waterbars and flow groomed by plenty of wheels on a trail that cuts through the dense rainforest. But when it finally tips down, you drop 400m pretty quickly. Don’t get caught out!
The bottom isn’t the finish, as you ride a country road to the back of the canefields, under the road through a drainage tunnel (where a 3m saltwater Croc was found once) and through the back of Port Douglas. But you’re not done yet! Find the hard send and power up Four Mile Beach to the finish line.
You’re now a Croc Trophy finisher!
This was a cool stage in it’s original concept, but now with a climb, descent, some singletrack and the final to really let rip on the beach, it’s an excellent tribute to Greg Parr, and a great way to top off an 8-day stage race. Get the full course details online.
If you’re not signed up – you can still do so now. The Crocodile Trophy should be a bucket list mountain bike stage race for any endurance mountain biker. Entry isn’t cheap, but compared to other events on the global scene the pricing is quite inclusive and there’s not really too much to pay for during the event, save for some beers at the bar and massage.
While you’ll meet people there, the best way to tackle it is with a couple of friends. Get a crew together, sign up and get training!