Crocodile Trophy Supremo Gerhard Schoenbacher gave a spirited seal of approval to the opening stage for the 2009 edition of Australia's iconic international mountain bike race, which is set to take the event to new heights as it tests protagonists from October 20-29.
Conducting his traditional pre-race reconnaissance, Schoenbacher joined rangers from the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service for a personal tour of the stage one parcours, which will take in a hand-picked selection world heritage-listed wet tropics rainforest.
The 90-kilometre journey from the tropical oasis city of Cairns to Lake Tinaroo on Australia's Tropical Tableland will include close to 2,400 metres of climbing, making it the highest mountain stage in the history of the race and one that can only be described in its purest form as cross country mountain biking.
"Over the 15 years of the race, I think this is our best stage ever," Schoenbacher said as he surveyed the backdrop for the stage one campsite at Downfall Creek on Lake Tinaroo.
"This stage has everything and I mean everything for the riders."
When the international peloton, headed by former World and Olympic Champion Bart Brentjens, rolls out of Cairns on October 20, riders will be confronted with what is arguably the toughest climbing assignment ever served up in an Australian mountain bike stage race.
The ascending will begin with a comparatively easy 15 kilometres on the famed "Copperlode" climb to Lake Morris, in the heavily rainforested mountains behind Cairns. From there, the gradient will double as riders are confronted with pitches of close to 20 percent gradient when they negotiate the Bridle Creek track en-route to Davies Creek National Park.
There will be some brief respite as the race rolls across the farmland of the Tropical Tableland, but the best will be saved for last on the climb of Mount Edith, the highest unsealed road in Queensland, with the summit at 1,200 metres.
"The good news for the bikers is that the final 10 kilometres to LakeTinaroo will be mostly downhill," Schoenbacher said.
"And the riders will be able to cool off with a swim in the lake ... they will need that!"
The Crocodile Trophy peloton for 2009 will include riders from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Italy, The Czech Republic, Germany, The Netherlands, Slovenia, Switzerland, Spain, and South Africa.
The race begins in Cairns on October 20 and will venture deep into the Australian Outback before finishing on a tropical beach at Cape Tribulation on October 29.
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