The infamous nine-day stage mountain bike stage race through the Outback of Tropical Far North Queensland will kick off on Saturday, 20 October and finish after more than 900 km in Cooktown on Sunday, 28 October. This year the field of more than 130 racers is bigger and more competitive than ever before and during Friday’s rider briefing the top favourites were mingling with adventurous mountain bikers from all over the world.
This year’s Crocodile Trophy will start at Smithfield’s former World Cup tracks near Cairns before heading out onto the Atherton Tablelands towards the mining towns of Irvinebank and Maitland and passing the Mt Mulligan cattle station along the way.
“This year our race track has changed a lot from previous years. Our riders can expect more technical sections throughout almost each stage. Logistically the increased rider numbers meant that we ramped up the event’s organisational crew and procedures, it’s a massive operation.”, said organiser Gerhard Schönbacher at today’s official rider briefing in Cairns.
One of the most talked about topics was the racing venue for Stage 1 at the Cairns MTB Club’s home track in Smithfield, which will host the 30 km lap race on a 6 km course, which has been described by riders as “not too technical, but rewarding for the mountain bikers among the field”.
The big favourites this year are the Austrians Wolfgang Krenn and Josef Benetseder, who finished second and third, respectively in 2011, as well as a “Croc old hand” with Czech rider Ondrej Fojtik, winner of the race in 2008. Also last year’s fastest Australian elite rider Justin Maddog Morris (racing for Subaru-MarathonMTB.com) will be at the start line as well as Australia’s very own 24H Solo World Champion, Jason English from Port Macquarie. The international field of riders also includes Canadian endurance mountain bike racer Cory Wallace, who finished fifth overall in 2010 as well as Belgian Mike Mulkens who is at the Croc start line for the fourth time in a row.
Here are some of the race favourites’ comments picked up at the rider briefing…
Ondrej Fojtik (CZE): “I’m up to the challenge. I’m in excellent shape, so I think I’ll have a very good chance to win this year’s event. I finished second twice already and in 2008 I won, however, it was a very tough race for me that year and I didn’t enjoy some of the race stages. Now I hope to win after a ‘good’ race.” The Czech racing pro welcomed the race track changes, expecting that the race will be “better, shorter, harder and what’s most important, it will be so much faster”.
Justin Morris (AUS): “I know I’m the outsider. I am the local rider, I know. But I don’t know of this is a benefit. This year the race is changed and I don’t know what to expect. The stages are shorter, but more technical and the singletrails will be a piece of cake for us mountain bikers.” The Australian hopes to take advantage of his technical racing skills to compete with the high-profile international racing field at the Crocodile Trophy this year.
Mike Mulkens (BEL): “I’ll win that Boomerang this year. With his perseverance and endurance Mike Mulkens wrote history at last year’s event, however, wasn’t rewarded due to mechanical issues towards the end of the stage race. “No flat tires, please, this year, because I want to win a boomerang. I focused all my training on the Crocodile Trophy and I believe that the race can be won or lose during stage two. Its a wall.”
Corry Wallace (CAN): “I raced a 24 hour event in Canberra to prepare for this. I decided to come only three weeks ago so after my summer racing season in Canada I just kept riding for miles each day to contain my shape.” The Canadian can look back onto a very successful summer, having won several endurance and a stage race in Asia, the Mongolian Bike Challenge, which he described as very similar in terms of race logistics and dynamics. Wallace wouldn’t put money on any of the favourites to win the Croc Trophy, stating that “every stage will be a battle, it is impossible to predict a winner”.
Josef Benetseder (AUT): “Grassy hill is my mountain.” The Austrian road hill climb champion has his eyes on Grassy Hill, the historic and picturesque landing site of Captain Cook. “Indeed I am a climber, but my specialty is racing on roads, but I am really motivated to master the technical mountain bike sections and I’m in good shape. My favourite stage is the last one. Very long and that’s what I am used to, because as a road racer I do races up to 200 km frequently.”
Wolfgang Krenn: “The Croc is my main goal.” This week Wolfgang Krenn arrived in Cairns with a lot of luggage and an empty wallet after the excess baggage. “It’s worth it – I really like this race and it’s been my main goal for this season. I look forward to the heat and the technical sections, especially on stage seven and eight with all those corrugations. I hope that one of us Austrians will win the race this year, but there are a lot of good racers here.”
Jason English (AUS): “That’s a race that has to be done.” The double 24H Solo World Champion has arrived in Cairns with another 24H Solo win under his belt – from last weekend. It’s not exactly going to be a recovery ride in the Outback, but he is looking forward to experiencing first hand what the Crocodile Trophy is all about after having heard so much about it. “I can’t wait to get out there, it’s great to be amongst so many different riders from all over the world, no doubt this is going to be an adventure!”
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