Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

Crocodile Trophy – Stages 1,2 & 3

1

The Croc Trophy has started in a way that no one expected: monsoonal rain. The race got underway in downtown Cairns in torrential rain and it’s been with us ever since. None of the competitors or organisers are prepared for the weather – some people don’t even have a long sleeved top to put on at night!

Stage 1 started with a 12.5km climb and the pace was high from the gun. I managed to find myself in the second group – with 7 guys up the road – and was really happy with how I felt and my position. As we got to the top of the climb the organisers screamed at us to stop (in German, no less) as the 4WD lead vehicles hadn’t been able to clear the sections of track that had become a deluge. After waiting at the top of the climb at an info centre for about two hours the decision was made to neutralise the stage. We still had to get to the finish which meant another 90kms in crosswinds on mountain bikes – far from a leisurely ride. I was going OK until I punctured with 40kms to go and had to stop on the side of the road for some running repairs. As frustrating as it was I was happy for it to happen on this day not under race conditions.

Conditions at camp were best described as a flooded mess. It would get worse during the night when our tent started leaking on to my bed (apparently we were not alone). The stretcher beds were the most uncomfortable contraptions I have slept in. It was impossible to sleep on your side so I assumed the coffin position and underwent 8 hours of water torture with intermittent sleep.

A new day broke but the rain didn’t relent for us. Jess and I tripped over each other in the tent as we tried to get our stuff organised including bottles that have to placed for collection at various points during the day.

© Crocodile Trophy 2011 - R.Stanger

Stage 2 started with a neutralised 17km ride into the town of Atherton where we were greeted by lots of locals, schoolkids and you guessed it: rain. When the flag dropped the pace was amazing – 50kph along a fire road for two kms until we hit the first climb of the day which was the best part of 20kms with a few downhills thrown in. I was slightly off the pace of the leaders and settled in with Ash Hayat and a Korean guy in about 15th spot. Just as we finished the climb we were joined by a couple of MarathonMTB riders and formed an efficient working group. We rolled turns consistently for 50kms and could see a group ahead which we finally caught at the last feed zone. Ash and I didn’t bother with bottles at the last feed and were able to get some food and water in as we waited for the others to catch us.

This group turned out to be the second on the road with four guys up ahead. All the riders were strong and clearly experienced road riders as there were little surges from these big Dutchies and Swiss riders when we crested the hills or hit a crosswind. We gradually lost guys in our group and were down to 7 for the last 20km run home. The riding had been a mix of asphalt, mud, hardpack gravel and loose stones and it was a touch last few kms. I managed second in the sprint to claim 6th spot – much better than I had hoped for – and some decent time gaps on other guys who had been with us.  Pandemonium at the finish as we had beaten our luggage here so the afternoon has been spent trying to stay dry and warm. I now have two sets of kit that I am not looking forward to washing (nor do I know when I will get the chance to)…. Wet shoes for the morning for sure….

Waking up for Stage 3 we weren’t sure what to expect. Rumours had circulated the night before about potential for a) neutralised ride to Irvinebank, b) short race and neutralised on the highway or c) a race of 93km through to Irvinebank. They decided on c) and there was a mixed reaction – there had not been a single minute of non-precipitation.

I was awarded the Masters leader jersey for the race and took up position near the front. The race started with a massive turn of speed and straight uphill. Within two kms we were down to 9 riders and I had just managed to make the selection. The heart rate was in territory I hadn’t seen for a long time and I was chewing my handlebars at the crest of every climb. We started working turns and gradually the gap to the group behind opened up and I hoped that I would be able to stay with the leaders for a while. I was the only English speaker in the front group and a lot of jibberish in Flemish, Dutch, German and Czech kept me guessing what was being discussed from a tactical perspective.

The asphalt section down the highway consisted of full working turns at 60kph – all of us were at the limit of our mountain bike gear ratios. We turned off the main road into the bush and it instantly got harder. The Korean guy in our group was dangling off the back and for the next 15kms I was on the rivet. Eventually an attack from Huber caused a selection and five guys were away. Three of us regrouped and worked well together and the Korean was back in the dust. With 5kms to go I was feeling toasted but comfortable with my compatriots when I got a puncture coming out of a deep river crossing. My worst nightmare. I was able to do some emergency repairs which cost me a few minutes and enough for the Korean to catch and pass me. I rolled into town in 9th spot – a great result –but felt cheated by the puncture. I’m not exactly sure of the time gaps back to the groups behind but hopefully still preserved 5 minutes or so on the next crew.

Not sure I will be able to repeat the efforts tomorrow as it’s incredibly hilly around Irvinebank but will give it a shot. Great first few days of racing for me and let’s see if the form can be maintained…

© Crocodile Trophy 2011 - R.Stanger

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  1. Virgil says:

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    сэнкс за инфу!…