Crocodile Trophy. Cairns to Cooktown. October 18th - 27th 2011

 river crossingA bit of back ground first.

My Giant team mate and coaching client, Brad Davies was always going to do the Croc and we had been busily scheduling in training and life and trying to avoid illness for weeks leading up to this event.

So I was already well in deep with the whole scene of Croc Mania.

It was about 4 weeks out from the start date that I got a phone call from Martin Wisata from Rocky Trail Entertainment to see if I would be keen to attend and would it fit into my schedule?

It took me about 1 minute to scan through my diary and assess that this was indeed possible and I would be stupid to turn down this amazing opportunity, so I said YES!

In the lead up to this crazy event, I had a tonne of things on already which often left me wondering if I was really biting off more than I could chew?

My calendar started with Eliza coming down to Forrest for some skills, training & a women's Liv/Giant ride early October. Then the trip up to Canberra for the Scott 24hr in a team of 4 with the Giant girls, Eliza, Jo, Niki and me. Then a trip to Nambucca Heads to ride the trails with the great club and people there for a couple of days, finally followed by a huge trip to Brisbane for our MTBSkills 1st Birthday with Rowan with skills sessions, an Ambia intro course & some social riding at Mt Joyce...I even managed to squeeze in a half hour visit to the Dekker gang in Brissy.

Finally arriving in Cairns, this was not without further incident, which includes me losing my purse on the plane and no one handing it in! No cash, no card, lost wedding and engagement rings – arghh!!!!! I had to contact Brad Davies at midnight to ask for assistance. Got to the bank on Monday morning and got some cash and decided to worry about the rest later.

Monday in Cairns consisted of breakfast with Brad, his wife Sarah and daughter Wynne. Then off to the bank, some last minute shopping and a bit of a hair cut to survive the next 10 days of "light on" hygiene access.

The first thing that struck me about Cairns was the heavy humidity that took away the spring in my step. I had been warned of this from many a person including Brad himself.

Brad had already arrived a week prior to get some good tapering done in the lead up to the Croc Trophy.

On the evening of Monday 17th October we attended the race briefing for all involved in the event.

A lot to take in, and we still needed to do the final cull of our gear to take with us, get some sleep and prepare for 10 days of racing.

At this stage in the process I was silently concerned about the whole race and having enough electrolytes and other nutritional products let alone have the legs and the mind to go through with 10 days of racing.

Oh well...I had come this far there was no turning back, just go with the flow and accept this challenge with an open mind.

Tomorrow the race begins!

Tuesday 18th October Crocodile Trophy Day 1

Greeted with rain for the start was a sign of things to come.

The start was in Cairns in front of the lagoon swimming pool area.

Lots of hellos to people we knew and those we grew to know.

The first job of the day was to get our water bottles to the depot drop offs that we would be able to access throughout the day. The daily grind of a 10 day outback race started with clean fresh bottles, fresh cycling kits and immaculate bikes.

Having stayed in a hotel last night, day 1 was a breeze.

After dropping off bottles, a weigh in was required to ensure we kept hydrated every stage with a follow up weigh in post race.

When all the formalities were taken care of we finally started the neutral part of this stage, a 12km ride through Cairns and to our official start part way up a climb to Copperlode Dam.

I mentioned the rain earlier, which threatened all morning. Until the race started it had held off but the humidity was unbelievable!

Eventually we got off to the official race start and being a long climb winding through the hills I was happy to find a tempo and get day 1 under way.

Somehow with the humidity and sweaty the rain that started to fall arrived unnoticed for a while, in fact I recall I was grateful for the coolness it brought with it.

Then there was a distinct change from rain to torrential downpour and as serious as it was, the fun factor of riding in this was extremely enjoyable. Unable to ride with sunglasses on and only see 20 – 30 metres in front of you made the time go quick as intense concentration was needed.

The race become neutralised when support vehicles required could not get through the course intended and after a long break in a tourist shelter, we proceeded riding again in a non race fashion.

Still...the rain fell, it was wet and we were all wearing black garbage bags to stay warm.

I wish I could have raced this day, I do love racing, riding in the rain and enjoying the slippery mud descents. It reminded me of Otway Odyssey and how often the steep Noonday tk is wet and almost unrideable.

After a day of 105km of what I would call my "Croc Trophy" Warm up ride, we arrived at Lake Tinaroo. We seemed to escape the rain for about 2hrs, then it started and poor Brad got rained on with water dripping through the tent all night.

The sign of things to come for the next 2 days!

Day 2 – Lake Tinaroo to Koombooloomba Dam.

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Greeted with rain, riding in rain and wet from yesterdays jaunt, we prepare for a re routed stage, still consisting of 114km.

The entire day was on and off rain finishing through Tully Rainforest in some spectacular roads and some pretty solid rain.

I had a good day on the bike, loving the rain, enjoying some company with a crew that I had picked up along the way. Finishing 30th in 4hrs 20 mins to a very sombre camp site.

Puddles, rain, wet tents, people scurrying to keep dry, garbage bags used as rain jackets, it was a shemozzle!

Brad and I managed to secure a better tent and better beds tonight. The only thing stopping me from sleeping was listening to the rain on the tent ALL NIGHT LONG!

It was so wet we just left our wet kits and shoes at the tent door, what was the use in cleaning or keeping anything dry?

Day 3 – Koombooloomba to Gunnawarra – re route to Irvinebank – this stage was totally transformed due to rain so we rode to Irvinebank instead and started to feel some sunshine on our backs.



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Another good day in the saddle as I picked up a big group of 10 part way along the race course. We were able to work together and get into Irvinebank a bit faster and smoother.

Today was a better day for me, finishing 26th in 3hrs 57 mins.

Being in Irvinebank for 2 days was like arriving at a refugee camp being told we could make this our home now. Everyone scrambling for a make do clothes line to dry out their gear and making their little patch of grass home.

I managed to find a park bench on a 3 x 3mt patch of concrete to use as our porch, surprisingly no one else had snatched it up.

We hung out next to our neighbours John and Sandra Boswell from Townsville. Another visitor, Peter also from Townsville brought Brad and I some supplies of pegs, rice creams and lollies.

Irvinebank was an oasis, a pub, internet connection and a dry tent for 2 nights!


Day 4 – Irvinebank 3 x 28km laps around the town.


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This was a road race on mountain bikes. A few creek crossings, loads of head and cross winds, a significant climb on bitumen followed by a 3-4km smash fest back to the start/finish line.

Whilst I missed a good break in the group due to my poor starts, I did manage to catch a group of Belgians on the 2nd lap who proceeded to sit behind me claiming that they could not take a turn.

I was not willing to slow down and so we caught more people in the process.

The final lap would be decided on the climb and I was toasted, whilst not finishing last in our bunch, I was still suffering from being a stupid pig headed person on my 2nd lap.

Coming in today at 35th in 3hrs and 5seconds, it was a roadies day indeed.

Tomorrow was a better day with some technical mtb terrain.

Day 5 – Irvinebank to Mt Mulligan 105km

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Described as a technical day, I was looking forward to it.

I think I had my tyre pressure far too high from all the non technical terrain on roads, and pinged around a bit too much.

Finishing 33rd in 4hrs and 5 mins it was a better day that yesterday, tomorrow I would prosper! The long stage...long long loooooooong stage. This was a day where we all started to feel the heat from the soles of my feet to the top of my head!

Day 6 – Mt Mulligan to Mt Mulgrave. 189km


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The longer the days are the better I do!

Lots of hills and undulations, river crossings, creek crossings, rocks and crazy fast dirt roads punctuated with hot dusty double tracks short cutting through barren cattle properties.

The rocks here are full of ore, sharp and metallic, the theme of the day was punctures.

Just ask the bike mechanics how many new tyres they put on that night.

Brad Davies got 5! Cost him an hour.

I in fact got 2 holes that resealed and the 3rd one resulted in a need for a tube.

Thanks to Matthias who stopped to help me but later got his own almost fatal flat from a rock bending his rims, causing the tubeless seal to give. Speed into a rocky dry creek crossing was the cause.

Coming in 30th in 7hrs 41 mins and 50 seconds I only wish I could have had a clean run – I reckon I could have come 25th today without the tyre issues.

I spent 2hrs laying in the river after the race, one of the things that made this race so worth while.

This marked the start of my loss of appetite as eating was becoming a chore. My primary desire was a cold can of coke!..which was very hard to come by!

Day 7 – Mt Mulgrave to Laura. 151Km

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So yesterdays stage was long and so was this one!

Not only long the heat was turning up. We were racing at 8am today and feeling the heat from 9am onwards into the early 40's with the most heat being felt on the feet.

There was a definite feeling of flatness from the get go today. 30Km in after such fun rolling undulations I was smashed and just could not maintain any intensity.

It was food, I know so as I ate a meagre dinner and breakfast, it was hard to be enthusiastic about eating. Now I was paying for it.

At the next feed I grabbed a muesli bar which I really don't like, but in 20 mins I was perky, so I kept dealing with feeling good, then bonking, until I got to the final feed zone I was now on fire again. 30 km to go, you think yes, this is easy...but 15k of the 30 was the most incredible corrugations I have ridden on. Just telling myself, " 1km at a time...just let it tick over, don't stress, its going to take an hour, so be done with it!"

Matthias and I finished together and just stood under the outdoor showers for a bit trying to cool down.

A bad day coming in 43rd, in 6hrs 46mins. I promised to eat and drink and eat some more tonight.

And have a very substantial breakfast to make up for todays horrible suffer fest.

Not much to do in Laura, just listening to Snowy the one man band at the pub all night long...from the comfort of my stretcher bed and tent. Funnily enough I mentioned to Turi, "I wonder if he has CD's for sale?" and only minutes later, Snowy mentioned that he did! Oh why didn't I buy one?

Day 8. Laura to Kalpowar. 89Km

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Short day today and only 200mts of climbing!!! Short, sharp and fast.

2 drink stations, 90km and fairly decent roads, albeit corrugated in sections.

This was essential to be part of a bunch, but also to be 100% on your guard. Accidents happened all over the place with wheels touching and bodies colliding.

At the top end, funny games and angry athletes were messing with the race.

Thankfully we all worked well and I even had the presence of mind to get a good position for the end 1km and finished well in the bunch sprint.

Today I finished 27th in 3hrs and 9 mins.

Kalpowar was a nice spot with Saltwater crocodiles in river down the bottom of the camp site.

There were rock pools amongst the river and a group of us decided our lives were safe and had a dip for a good hour whilst checking out potential wildlife action around us.

I came out cold, which was awesome. Days like these were in there 40's and life was getting very hard indeed!

Day 9. Kalpowar to Starcke. 148Km

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this was to be the hardest day of the lot.

A big day in kms and a longer day due to the terrain.

Starting off with a river crossing, the field soon split up and thankfully I was able to stick with the crew from yesterday and find my race legs.

Another hot day in the 40's, lots of sand awaited us, in fact we raced through a section of at least 70km long with on and off sections of deep nearly unrideable sand. Whilst we had many spots of the route that were fast and flowy you would be then greeted with a 1-2km section of hot deep sand.

The most memorable and hardest aspect of today was the sand, the sections that just kept coming and coming...once again, I just had to look at riding 1km at a time, rationing my drinks to last until the next depot. I had a bad spot from about 100km to 120km and rode conservatively until I came good again.

Finishing 29th in 6hrs 51mins this was probably the hardest day of racing yet.

Especially since we arrived in a very picturesque spot – NOT. It was hot, very hot and relentless heat. Once again my appetite was gone. Tonight I did not go to dinner. Instead I ate nuts, lollies and pasta from Jeroen Boelen and added a boiled egg to it.

With one more night to go, I did not care right now. Food was food and sleep was far more important.

Day 10. Starcke to Hope Vale with a neutral finish to Cook town.

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Seems simple enough. One day to go, only 80km of racing and 50km of riding behind a police car to Cooktown.

The race itself – fine. Arrived in Hope Vale in 33rd in 3hrs and 3mins. 2Hrs of sitting around waiting for the police to escort us, then finally the next 2hrs was hellish riding. Slow and controlled and my backside hurt!

Eventually it was over, Cooktown was hot and humid but we finished on the steep climb of Grassy Hill and overlooked the ocean. Downed 2 cans of coke, about 6 slices of watermelon and then enjoyed the presentations.

I had won the female category and came 29th overall with 43hrs of riding in 10 days.

So the some thoughts hints and lessons learnt on this epic event:

  • Do it at least once – nothing will ever be hard again.
  • Take plenty of spares, tyres and anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
  • Do it with a support crew or person in a 4wd camper and do it in a bit of luxury.
  • Take a supply of cold cans of coke if you bring that camper and support person.
  • Use Sudocream (baby nappy rash cream) for your chamois cream. It worked a treat and I avoided saddle sores with 10 days of pounding on a hard tail.
  • In the last 3 days I double knicked, which is wearing 2 pairs of cycling shorts with double chamois. It saved me nicely!
  • I did not use a camel back and my back thanked me for it.
  • I used a hard tail, not a dual suspension. It had room on the frame for 2 bottle cages.
  • Eat eat and eat. Don't let lack of appetite ruin your next race day. If you cant eat, make sure you drink something loaded with carbs.
  • As much as you don't want to drink a recovery drink post race, this was a pretty good routine to manage recovery and post race fatigue.
  • Learn Austrian, German, Dutch and Flemish and you will get on fine, they all speak English really well, but how fun to understand what race tactics they are talking about.
  • Take some cold wet weather gear, I needed it and did not have it.
  • Take a great attitude, remember every day is a total blessing and how amazing is it that you get to ride roads and terrain you would never choose to do yourself.

Would I do it again you might ask?....well not today as I type this.

But I am doing Cape Epic in 2012!

Thank you world for the marvellous experiences you keep throwing at me.

A massive thank you to the following people and sponsors:

Brad Davies for picking me up at the Airport past midnight in Cairns on my arrival and helping me when I was stranded.  Also thanks for being there throughout the race and sharing a tent with me.

Martin and Juliane Wisata for asking me to come to the Croc Trophy.

Turi Berg for helping us Victorians set up camp each night, get good stretcher beds and get nice snacks for us on the drive to the camp sites.

Schwalbe Tyres - Guy from Bike Box, thanks for the Racing Ralphs in 2.1 and 2.25.  I really needed the spares!

Shimano Australia - Thanks Michelle for the last minute goodies of XTR sweetness. What a treat to change gears smoothly and with absolute trust as well as smooth modulated braking day in day out, no matter how harsh the conditions were...10 days in a row of hard core outback!

Torq Australia - Helping me out with some products to get me through the heat and energy requirements of such a full on event.

Peter and Louise from Townsville for dropping off some goodies at Irvinebank.

John and Sandra Boswell for the great companionship throughout the event, they too are from Townsville and John completed the race too.

Thanks to my coaching clients who coped without me being in contact for the few weeks I was away. 

Robbie at Jet Black for some last minute gloves and grips for some important contact points, my hands!

Oakley for my awesome Radars.

Tekin Suspension for my great FOX forks and the maintenance of them, I have flogged them at the Croc!

...and a massive thanks to Giant Australia who always believe in me, support me and of course allow me to ride awesome bikes. I rode the Carbon imported XTC 26" .hardtail tricked up with Fox forks, Shimano XTR wheels and components.

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