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February 3, 2009
Have any of you roadies ever thought about doing something different? Something that’s a real challenge? Something with some real suffering involved? Then get yourself a mountain bike and try out the Crocodile Trophy in Outback Australia. There’s no disagreement that it’s the toughest mountain bike stage race in the universe. It’s like riding on Mars at 40C for 10 days straight. With stages up to 148km long for 10 days in a row, you won’t find a race that’s more epic. Period.
Don’t think this sufferfest is just for the hardcore mountain bikers. Adam Hansen won this race twice, got noticed for his success and was brought aboard T-Mobile. Many notable road racers venture out to compete in this event for the experience of a lifetime. Two of my good buddies on the road, Reece Stephens and Tim Calkins, submitted their Crocodile Trophy TIPS to help any of you thinking about giving it a go. Thanks for the excellent TIPS guys.
Tim’s Crocodile Trophy Tips
1. Train with the exact same nutrition that you will use while racing. We both bought a large number of bars / gels from an outfit offering a good deal to Croc Trophy riders. When we picked them up — the day before the race started — we discovered that they were horrible. Really dry and difficult to chew while riding. I still have a good sized collection that I should finish off by the end of 2009.
2. I also added an electrolyte solution to my race bottles that I didn’t use while training. Big mistake.
3. Always carry a powerlink while riding. It is an unbelievably easy way to fix a chain.
4. Tubeless tyres. Use them. An Austrian bloke spent a few days at the pointy end of the peleton, but he had a few days with multiple flats. The riders with tubeless had spend considerably less time changing tyres. Reece and I rode on relatively new Racing Ralphs and had no problems whatsoever. For what it’s worth, I think about 50% of the riders were on Schwalbe tyres.
5. Bring two saddles. Alternating saddles really decreases the pressure points that inevitably build up on the undercarriage after 150km of corragations.
6. Hunger is the best spice.
7. A book is perhaps the perfect way to pass the afternoon. Finish racing, eat, shower, stretch, eat, read, have dinner, read, and then eat again before bed; that was a typical afternoon and evening. Actually, it is very important (and difficult) to stay well hydrated after the stage has finished.
8. Road pedals and shoes are good for the non-technical stages of these sort of events. Like saddles, different shoes and pedals helps to change pressure points around.
9. Don’t be the only person to ride a 29er since it makes it very hard to borrow tubes from other riders.
10. Unless you’re going for a solo break, sit up and wait for the next bunch to come through. Especially true in longer stage racing.
11. Riding through creeks is fun but dangerous and likely to cause crashes.
12. Riding through sand is not fun but not dangerous and likely to cause crashes. There are some stages where you’ll have 50km or so of sand, though typically not all at once. Learning how to ride sand prior to the race would be a good idea, especially as it would allow you to pick better lines (ie, you could perhaps recognize and avoid soft sand). Monster tyres are great for the sandy days.
13. Wear 2x knicks on the sandy days to prevent sand from getting in your nether regions.
13. XXXX still tastes bad, even after riding 1200km.
Reece’s Crocodile Trophy Tips
Organisers transport a second set of wheels for participants. These are not available to riders during the stage but can be changed before starting the next stage. I would recommend riders fit a 2.4 (inch????) or wider tyre width on these spare wheels. On the sandy stages I would highly recommend using the spare wheels with wider tyres (this saves the hassle of having to change tubeless tyres regularly). Wider tyres, while obviously slower on most ground, travel across sand much better, helping to prevent riders from sinking into the sand.
Bike Mechanics Course
While mechanical support is available at the end of each stage it is not provided during the stage. Therefore a working knowledge of bike mechanics is required. Riders should at least be able to true a wheel after a broken spoken, adjust chain to make bike fixed gearing when derailleur issues are encountered and remove brake callipers to prevent severely buckled wheels from not rotating etc
Carry a Spare Tyre
For both conventional and tubeless tyres riders carry spare tubes for on course repairs. However often in MTBing punctures are not caused by a small prick but by tyre damage such as a hole. This was never more evident that at croc trophy when riders would suffer multiple (up to 6) punctures in one stage. Providing make shift repairs to tyres only last so long. Given the minimal extra weight involved, carrying a spare tyre is a good investment across terrain like that covered in croc trophy.
Know your limits
No point pushing harder than you should to hold a group only to find that 30mins later you get dropped and have to ride solo until the next bunch catches you. Often by this stage you are so exhaust from riding solo that you struggle to hold the second group.
Carry enough food
Attacks aren’t meant to occur at feed zones. However many riders have support crew handing them muzette’s. Even when they just keep riding steady it is hard work to chase back on alone if you have had to stop at the food station – which you will have to do if you don’t have a support crew to help you. You should always have enough gels and bars in your jersey to make the next feed zone if you have to leave this feed zone without refreshment to ensure you are not the last rider to leave. Unless you leave with the second to last rider in your group you are almost certain to be dropped.
Practice Relieving Yourself (I do regularly)
This is not as it sounds. The groups do not stop for nature calls. If you come to a standstill to relieve yourself you’ll likely be dropped. Learning to “go” on a gentle downhill or while someone provides gentle assistance to keep you rolling in crucial. This is not easy and should be practiced in training. Some, might want to carry a triathlon style mini bottle of water to rinse away any “spills”.
Any of you tough enough to sign up for this in 2009? If you are, you can get information here