I will do this race report in stages to make it easier to read and easier for me to try to remember what day I did what!
I decided to do a warm up ride to the race, as it was only 15km and pretty straight forward…. at least I thought! I headed out and was watching the km’s ticking away on my GPS but nothing looked too familiar so I decided it would be a good time to ask someone. There was one farmhouse with a big open shed so I hot pedaled it over the HWY to the shed and two dogs chased me across the field but luckily the guys in the shed yelled out for them to ‘heal’.
The two men dressed in their stubbies’ shorts, singlet tops and thongs, looked at me with intrigue as I rocked up on my bike and I asked them if I was close to Smithfield. One of them quickly replied’ nahhh mate, you’re about 40km south of Smithfield ay’ and he added ‘whatchya doin’ up there?’. I explained to them I was racing the Crocodile Trophy, which started at 12. His friend piped in and said ‘nahhh…you’ll never make it to Smithfield by then. You could catch a cab but they don’t really come out here ay. You’re best bet is to go back out to the HWY and thumb down a ride ay’. They both stood there with their arms folded surrounded by dirt bikes and a 4WD in the driveway. And on that note I decided he was right, I had to try to hitch a ride as I had 45mins to get there and took off across the field and onto the HWY.
I waited for about 10mins and was about to jump back on my bike and time trialing north to Smithfield…and that is when a woman in a Land Cruiser 4WD made a U-Turn on the HWY and asked me where I was headed. I couldn’t believe my luck!!! I told her and she said ‘well, you better throw your bike in the back then and let’s go’.
Natalie her name was and she was headed in the opposite direction but saw me and didn’t think anyone would pick me up so she turned around to come to my rescue!
I was so relieved and my adrenalin was pumping, as I knew we had to get there. I called Will from Cairns Mtn Bike Club and let him know what had happened and he spoke to the race organizers and advised them of my predicament! They said I would just have to start when I got there. I missed the start by 3mins and once on my bike, took off a little too fast but with all the adrenalin pumping, I was on auto pilot….until half way through lap 3 when I began to feel rather tired! I decided to back it off a little as I still had another 8days to go but managed to pass the first place female within the last couple of km’s and win the stage!
I won a genuine Boomerang and leaders jersey and got a ride half way home from my hotel as I wanted to spin my legs out a little and to top my day off I left the prizes in the car of the kind local Cairns woman who gave me the ride. Luckily Will knew her and was able to get them to me before we departed Cairns.
STAGE 2- CAIRNS TO LAKE TINAROO 102KM/2500M
After dropping my bike bag and other bags off to the truck, I rode down to the lagoon on the Cairns Esplanade to the start of day 2. I made sure I knew exactly where to go this time and was at least half an hour early!
After signing in (we did this each day), we all lined up and rode out together as the first 13km was neutralized until we hit the first climb of the day.
It was at least 30deg Celsius by the time we started and warmed up as we stopped up the initial part of the climb for our official time start.
The climb was long and fairly consistent grade on the road with beautiful views of Cairns on one side and then as we climbed further, the rain forest on the other side.
After the decent down to the dam wall, we crossed it and went into the bush and we were greeted by a very steep climb and many of them. Some parts I had to walk, as I couldn’t keep the front wheel down and others did the same.
After climbing up again, we came down some rocky/loose fire road and and I had a hot flush or two on a couple of corners where I thought I was going to lose it over the edge! Then after a depot stop we moved onto smoother fire road before making it to the flat. I was with a group of 3 other guys and we made the most of the flat section before the next 10km climb. The first 5km was extremely hot and no wind and I was glad I had decided to wear my Nathan hydration pack as that was all I had left to last me until the next depot about 6km up the climb. I know you are thinking…. ‘how could you drink that much in such a short time??’.... Well it is easy when you have already done a lot of climbing and the heat is becoming more intense and the climb was slow going. It was one of those climbs that didn’t look that steep but was. I kept it steady and soon, found myself alone as I made my way ahead of the group. After the depot and refilling my bottles and Nathan hydration pack, the climb became more shaded as we were heading back into the rain forest which was a welcomed relief and nice change of scenery from the dryness below.
With 20km or so to go it was undulating and then a fun, long decent through the Lake Tinaroo campgrounds before getting onto sealed road for the last 5km. I was happy to see that 5km to go sign and looked forward to a dip in the lake, a shower and some food!
I finished first in stage 2 and was looking forward to day 3.
STAGE 3- LAKE TINAROO TO IRVINEBANK 111KM/2700M
Today was the day to a one pub town at Irvinebank which was exciting because we would be there for 2 nights which meant one less day of putting up and taking down my tent!.It was the last real town we would hit for a few days and to know there would be some cold beverages and pub food ahead was like a gold mine!
But first we had another neutralized start for 18km before we were under way. We started with some more climbing out of town on a fire road, then some technical descents…. one a little too steep and loose rock for me so I decided it would be safer for me to walk/run/slide down it instead! I didn’t care that the camera was rolling at the bottom, catching riders going kamikaze down it and some had no problem…I just wanted to play it safe!
It was another hot day and I refilled my Nathan pack and drink bottles at each depot and grabbed some watermelon and cut up cereal bars as I went through. I had caught up to a company out in the middle of the bush. One rider was David from Spain and the other an Aussie, Pete, from Mackay. I hung onto Pete’s wheel until the next depot and the temperature felt like it was rising further as we re filled and grabbed some Red Bull and took off again. We had another long, hot, climb and some rollers for 25km before a 4km decent on rough, rocky fire road into the town of Irvinebank. To see the finish line and pub along side it was a welcomed site. I had put $20 in my Nathan pack in the morning and went straight into the pub and got a packet of Smiths Salt and Vinegar chips, a soft drink and a glass of red cordial. The locals in the pub did glance a look at me when I came in covered in dirt and sweat and whatever else stuck to me (probably food and drink around my mouth!) and then went back to their beers.
Once I caught my breath and waddled over to the gear trucks, I picked up my bags (with some help from Callum, one of the workers) and set up my tent away from the main crowd, down by the lake with a few other tents…ahhh peace and quiet!
Food and a shower came next, then I cleaned my bike, lubed the chain, got my bottles and nutrition ready for the morning and then it was awards time. I won stage 3 and another jersey and boomerang!
An early night after dinner and I was looking forward to a quieter night and then it started from the pub…. I thought it was karaoke from the tones but no; it was a local husband and wife duo singing at the pub!!! I hadn’t heard some of these songs since primary school disco days and didn’t mind it at first but by 11pm, I was getting a little frustrated but managed to pass out at some point in the frustration!
Stage 4, 5, and 6, to be continued this afternoon...what a story!