Brentjens, Huber return to the Crocodile Trophy

Epic Australian mountain bike stage race kicks off

Tuesday marked the start of the 16th Crocodile Trophy Race in Australia. With the course marked and the battle lines drawn, two of the race's past rivals took to the start: last year's winner Urs Huber and the legend he beat, Bart Brentjens. The race runs through October 28.

Huber is riding solo and without support. The defending Swiss marathon champion is riding for the GC following his success in 2009.

Brentjens, a former Dutch champion and gold medalist in the 1996 Summer Olympics, is again competing to claim the overall prize which was snatched from him last year. This year he has returned, fresh from winning his own race - the Bart Brentjens challenge - and on a new prototype, a 2011 29er hardtail.

With both challengers racing for the second time, the 1200km course will not be such a surprise this time around although there are some new obstacles to overcome. The race will again throw riders into the wildest terrain Far North Queensland can muster between Cairns and Cape Tribulation.  This year, the final stage has been converted into a new, 38km "hilly" individual time trial.

"The last one with the time trial it is an exciting stage" said Brentjens. "At some stages (of the race), you're just really flat and not that many things will happen normally, but you never know," he said "It is going to be interesting."

Riding his final race of the season, Huber was again drawn to the race after his success last year and is looking forward to revisiting all 10 stages. "The race was great last year, so I thought this year -I have to do it again!" he said. "I think all 10 days are special."

"It's been a normal season like every year. I did a lot of races, and this is the final of my season, and yeah it's great and I'm very happy to be here again," said Huber.

Whatever the result, both riders will be faced with obstacles of epic proportions as they cover 1200km of sun, sand and sweat over 10 days. Both are also fighting a battle against another rival to their success, Mike Mulkens.

"I know him but I don't know what to expect," said Huber of Mulkens.

"I saw him at several races he participated in this year, and I think he will do much better than last year," said Brentjens, who noted he is also keeping an eye on the 24-year-old Rene Haselbacher.

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of the Crocodile Trophy.

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