A former Paris-Roubaix champion, who won the green jersey and wore the yellow jersey of the Tour de France, will headline a thirty-strong Belgian contingent at the 2008 Crocodile Trophy, which begins later this month in the wilds of Australia's Tropical North. At the age of 46, Belgian cycling great Eric Vanderaerden will dust off his cycling shoes to race in the name of the Marc Herremans Foundation, honouring the man behind the greatest single achievement in the race's history.
Last year, Herremans inspired the sporting world when he completed the 1,300 kilometre journey on a hand cycle. One of Belgium's most celebrated sportsmen, the paraplegic Ironman endured suffering beyond the imagination of most athletes and required constant medical attention during a feat which is now the stuff of legend. It was a performance that left an imprint on all involved and obviously inspired his countrymen, who will return en-masse to make the race their own.
Including support crew, a posse of 50 Belgians will venture into the Australian outback in 2008 to test themselves against the extreme elements and fellow competitors from 14 countries.
"Marc Herremans showed us last year, it is the power of mind more than body that drives each of us from within to discover our true strength," said Crocodile Trophy Supremo Gerhard Schoenbacher. "It is no surprise to see so many of his countrymen, including the great sprinter Eric Vanderaerden, return to take part in the race for themselves."
In his prime two decades ago, Vanderaerden won the classics, Paris Roubaix (1987) and the Ronde Van Vlaanderen (1985). His palmares also include five Tour de France stage wins, five days in the yellow jersey and an overall victory in the Tour's green jersey points competition (1986).
"Eric Vanderaerden has been a long time retired and it is simply not possible to turn back the clock," Schoenbacher said. "But he has worked on the Crocodile Trophy previously (driving a team car) and knows the suffering he is in for. He is Belgian, so no doubt at his age, he will race and ride for the love of cycling."
German Ironman triathlete Kai Hundertmarck, a two-time Crocodile Trophy stage winner, has also signed on for a second tilt at the overall title. In 2005, the former T-Mobile cyclist and Tour de France veteran rode with distinction for the Felt-Shimano Dream Team, winning the Blencoe Falls stage and the Laura-Cooktown "Queen Stage" of Australia's out-back classic. The German livewire was also unanimously voted the winner of the James Grant Memorial Award for "most flamboyant rider" by his fellow competitors.