The 9 day Crocodile Stage race through the Australian Outback just finished up and has left all us racers in a world of hurt. Stage 1 started off with an XC race on the 1996 World Championships course in Smithfield. It was hard on my diesel engine but I still managed a top 10 and stayed in overall contention. After this we headed to the outback for 8 days, 800 km of racing through burning temperatures sometimes reaching +45 C. The huge Euro field made this race hard from the gun with a trio of Czech riders taking control of the race. I started to team up with 24 World Champ Jason English from Australia for the first couple days until we got taken out by a car on the finishing stretch of stage 2 on a dh blind corner. Jason hit the car at 40 km/hr, smacking off the windshield and launching himself and bike over the top of the car and into the ditch braking his collarbone and badly bruising the rest of his body. I was just behind him and managed to skid into the ditch, stacking it pretty good but luckily missing the car. Stage 3 I lost a pile of time as I battled knee pains from the crash and a couple of flat tires and fell out of the top 20 in overall gc. In the last 6 days of the race I used the technical parts of the course and big climbs to climb back into contention and nailed down a 4th overall in the gc including a sprint finish on stage 7th for a 2nd, just narrowly missing winning a highly regarded boomerang for a stage win.
The racing was just a small part of this trip as the rest of the time we plated boy scouts in the Australian outback, swimming in billabongs with Crocodiles, dodging Kangaroos out on course and trying to find safe places to set up our tents at night away from the snakes and other creepy crawlers. One of the biggest challenges of the week was trying to get back to my tent after stage 5 as we were camped by a lake full off poisonous toads hopping around it. It was like trying to avoid hopping land mines as I tipp toed back to my tent after the nightly bonfire, using a large stick to swat away any toads which tried to get too frisky.
The day after the race we all headed out to the Great Barrier Reef for a day of snorkelling and to learn about this biggest World Heritage sight. The ships captain said he had never seen such a quiet/tired group of people on his boat before. Today, the day after the Reef trip we are all tending to some really bad sun burns and sore bodies up as we try and recover from the past couple weeks of adventures down under.
I can’t wait to get back here with my 29′r King Kahuna for another round of the Crocodile sometime soon as this race is a true epic challenge for testing the capabilities of both bikes and the human body!
Off to find some Aloe for the sunburns, Kangaroo meat for the muscles and a cold dark place to hole up for a while.
Over and out.