Another sweaty day, another 111km to race in Far North Queensland. It must be the Crocodile Trophy. This is a race that draws people from all over the globe, although quite a few from Central and Eastern Europe. The Subaru-MarathonMTB.com Team even has a UK/RSA representative this year, with Werner van der Merve flying out from London to race the event.
Racing point to point is a great part of mountain bike stage racing. Logistically, it’s tough for race organisers, and the event crews. It also adds a load to the racers themselves, as there is just that little bit more packing up and setting up to do. Making our way from Lake Tinaroo to Irvinebank today involved climbing over the range out of Atherton. Even when you’re suffering up a climb, it is an immense pleasure to see two of your team mates ride away. Werner in his orange leaders jersey, and Justin Maddog Morris in the Subaru-MarathonMTB team jersey with his Team Type1 – Sanofi bibs. He found his legs today, and it’s great to have him on the team for these 9 days of racing.
The very nature of mountain biking is about exploration for me personally. And the point to point style of racing really works for that. That’s why I often cram a few too many stage races in each year, to the detriment of fiscal responsibility, relationships and good health.
Having raced this style of race in Poland, the Czech Republic, USA, South Africa, Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland, I’ve seen quite a lot of races, and quite a lot of wheels, and experienced how people race the world over. I’m not alone – there are countless familiar faces from other events here at the 2012 Croc Trophy.
One thing that stands out about this race is how it really is a European race that runs in the Australian Outback. The support crew are almost all European, and the majority of the field is too. Karchers to wash your bikes with, ham and cheese sandwiches, rye bread, well stocked depots in the race – it all screams ‘Euro’. And that’s no bad thing. But the Australian Outback lacks the population density of the European Alps, or elsewhere. The race is not on a closed course, it traverses peoples properties, national parks, public land and some pretty gorgeous areas that many Australians may never experience.
Racers dropping rubbish in races is a big problem around the world. Some races have stiff penalties for such indiscretions – be they financial or time penalties. You can even be disqualified. And this works with varying success. Racing the ABSA Cape Epic with Will Hayter, we were never at the pointy end, but usually had less than 30-40 teams in front of us. And we rarely saw litter on the trails. The Breck Epic had stiff penalties, and the race organiser Mike Mac had riders running a sweep to pick everything up. The last few stages had these people only collecting race arrows. In Trans Germany, I’ve witnessed elite racers scolding others for their rubbish dropping. The Highland Fling has rubbish bins well placed along the route. Even a poor through with a cyclists arm gets wrappers in.
But there are some terrible demonstrations around. The Australian XCM Nationals race in Canberra was one of the filthiest I’ve seen in years. There were discarded wrappers everywhere. I’m hoping that it was written somewhere that CORC was cleaning it up, as Mt Stromlo Forrest Park was left in a terrible state.
And the Croc Trophy terrain is being treated the same way. It’s not just foreign riders either. Leading Australian riders and teams are demonstrating a flagrant disregard to their own country, and setting a terrible example to visiting racers. I was pleased to hear a strong Belgian MTBer scolding an Austrian road pro yesterday for dropping his rubbish, “we’re mountain bikers, we carry our rubbish out.”
Used chain lube bottles are thrown aside, wrappers thrown out, Red Bull cans are thrown into the bush – it’s a disgrace. The Crocodile Trophy is a hard race – no doubt about that. But there isn’t any prize money. We really aren’t racing for cattle stations – just through them. It’s imperative that we actually show some respect for the people’s land that we’re using, so this race can come back again. The last race vehicle does pick up the rubbish they find, but wrappers are thrown everywhere. Even a rider from one of the local bike shop teams was flinging a gel wrapper into the street as we rolled out of Atherton this morning.
Tomorrow we’re racing around Irvinebank, in four big 26km laps. No doubt it will be quick from the gun yet again. With a feed in Irvinebank every lap, I’m hoping the rubbish is kept to one area, and not spread out in the local ranges. Gel wrappers last for a long time, and aren’t a great reminder for locals of the event their town has hosted.