The Crocodile Trophy has been through many variations over its 25 year history. From an utter gruelling misery march across Australia to a shorter stage race focusing on singletrack racing. The modern Crocodile Trophy offers a complete MTB experience for all styles of riders from the old school hardened racer who wants to hammer out long miles in hostile terrain to the weekend warrior who prefers to ride at a moderate pace on fun trails. The Croc is now achievable for most discerning mountain bike riders. Saying that, a smart and structured preparation is going to make the experience either more competitive or more enjoyable. MarathonMTB Team rider and 2x Croc racer Justin Morris from Mind Matters Athlete Coaching prepared a run down on what to focus on for a successful Crocodile Trophy preparation.
The Crocodile Trophy is a momentous experience and one which you will you treasure for many years to come. The race itself can be very taxing but one thing is for sure. After coming home it is a race you will spend a lifetime being grateful for having had the experience of. Once considered completely off limits for most recreational MTB riders, the Crocodile Trophy is now much friendlier in it’s conditions. There is a luxury hotel option which enables you to avoid the cumbersome camping experience altogether. Something that was impossible in years past. There is also a 3 day Croc Trophy for those not up to a full 8 days riding. As cruisey as you choose to make your Croc experience as with anything important in life a good preparation is going to influence your enjoyment or competitiveness at the event.
The most crucial points to focus on in my opinion for those preparing for the Crocodile Trophy are:
The Croc is HOT! Some heat adaptation will go a long way to accelerating your adjustment to the conditions in Far North Queensland. Many successful northern hemisphere riders who have come straight from colder climates have spent long periods on home trainers with the heater on to prepare the body for performing in hot conditions. One of the unique demands of the croc is that the first 2 stages that climb and traverse the great dividing range of mountains are often in very humid conditions, then the days west of the ‘rain range’ are in very hot and dry conditions. Meaning your body will be put through different climate demands within a matter of days.
The trainer with the heater on, in the bathroom, with the windows closed- sounds silly but there is method to the madness! For those who call the Aussie heat home prioritising your training to try and line up with stage roll out times will help again with your adaptation to performing at that time of day and in those conditions.
Don’t forget to to take the right bike – check out our tips.
2. Find your limit:
Riders with a long pedigree of racing often perform well at the Croc. The race places similar mental challenges on the athlete that come from multi day road racing. In many ways in fact the croc is considerably harder than road stage racing, you are not staying hotels with buffet meals getting a massage each evening you are finishing a stage in the dirt and dust and finding your tent usually in a sand/ dirt pit, if you’re lucky some grass! The modern ‘luxury hotel option’ averts this stress for the modern Croc Trophy. Dealing with fatigue, discomfort and pain and continuing to push is one of the key elements for success in the croc and in life itself in many ways..
There are ways to bring pain tolerance training into your daily life ‘off the bike’.
One tried and true way of doing this- turning the final 30seconds of each of your showers to ICE COLD water, as well as mental benefits this also has physiological benefits for the body.
3. Going the distance:
Being able to back up on the bike day after day for 8 days is much harder than it seems. Many racers will get excited on stage 1 and burn a lot of fuel compromising their ability to hold form for the duration of the race. the best way to prepare for multi day racing is you guessed it… to ride multiple days back to back in training. For a race like the Crocodile Trophy being able to set aside 2 seperate weeks in the 2-6months prior where you have the time to put in 15+hours/week on the bike will help adjust your endurance baseload to deal with the duration of the race.
The added benefit of old school bulk mileage training is it prepares your body & mind not just from a fitness aspect but all cycling elements. Think bike fit, hydration & nutrition strategies, clothing choice, saddle sores… All these extra ‘little things’ turn into BIG things in a race like the Croc if not practised and prepared for.
Checking in on the stage routes/profiles also sheds some light on how to prepare and anticipate the exertion required for each stage. Well worth noting that a stage that does not have a high elevation gain DOES NOT MEAN an easy stage.
This is a common misconception in MTB racing, a stage with a lot of climbing means those climbs will be hard, but what goes up must come down. Descents allow some recovery time where there will be minimal power on the pedals. Flatter stages for example in the 2019 Croc stages 5, 6 and 7 have much less climbing than some of the preceding stages but will still place a lot of fatigue on the legs and body. Don’t think it’s all downhill after the ‘queen stage’ on day 4.
4. Attitude training:
That’s right attitude, NOT altitude. Tempers can flare during such demanding events. I have seen it, even done it myself. Having an appropriate mental approach to the race will help you enjoy the experience, make friends on the journey and achieve your goals results wise. Patience, tolerance and calmness are key traits that will help you in the Croc. Keeping a cool head in times of stress is so beneficial when dealing with the stressors of endurance athletic pursuits and for life itself truth be told.
Things will not always go to plan at any multi day race, keeping the ‘tude’ in check ensures you deal with the unexpected with clarity and will help keep the peace among the race community. Don’t sweat the small stuff and at a bicycle race, it’s definitely ALL small stuff!
5. Ride in the moment and enjoy it:
These 4 points are I believe deserving of attention in your lead up for such a race. There is of course a much longer list of preparation techniques that will ease the pain of racing the spectacle that is The Croc. Incorporating good prep in these 4 domains will help you get the most out of your experience in this. I remember just prior to my first Croc, I was very nervous about the race, I had put a lot of excitement and anticipation into my preparation.
The overthinking of the competitive element for me was taking away from what the experience actually is. My mate and Croc legend himself Struan Lamont gave me the best Croc advice before that first race to me- “At the end of the day, it’s a camping trip with mates and you just have to cycle between each campsite”.
After my 19 years of bike racing the Croc Trophy is truly one of the most memorable/ spectacular races I have ever been too. Get ready to be a part of some lifelong memories and create some lifelong friendships!
Good luck and GO HARD!