By John Flynn
The contenders in the Crocodile Trophy of 2007, which kicks off today, made their intentions clear at yesterday's pre-race briefing in Australia's tropical capital of Cairns. Relaxing on a wide open verandah, the largest field ever to assemble for the event listened intently as race organiser Gerhard Schoenbacher described the race route for the 13th staging of the epic race.
No-one was paying closer attention than Dane Michael Borup and Austrian Stefan Rucker, who both had chances to win the 2006 edition of the Crocodile Trophy, before straying from the parcours. This year will be a more difficult task for both.
"I know that I am one of the strongest riders and one of the favourites, but I also think that this year there are other riders that are very strong too," Rucker said. "Maybe there are better riders than last year, so it will be even harder."
Borup agreed with Rucker's prediction, knowing he too will be in for a more difficult campaign in his second attempt at the race. "Wide open I would say, given [2006 champion Christophe] Stevens has retired, so wide open," he said.
Lurking in the background at the race briefing, Felt Dream Team leader Mauro Bettin will wait until the end of today's opening stage before making any strong predictions. "I think after tomorrow I look and see if my legs are of a winner," Bettin said. "My head is [feeling] for a winner."
Bettin will be supported by one of the best domestiques in the business in the 2007 edition of the Crocodile Trophy. After contesting last week's Jayco Herald Sun Tour, Luxembourg's Benoît Joachim will tick the Crocodile Trophy of his life's to-do list. "With road racing everybody asks did you do the Tour de France and I can say yes," Joachim said. "In mountain biking everybody asks did you do the Crocodile and if you say yes, they say oh Cool."
Adding to the solid Australian presence at this year's event, the Flight Centre Scott team has been boosted by the addition of one of Australia's top cross-country mountain bikers in Nick Both. His intention is to be a contender for the General Classification. "As a team we're really hoping to do well and give some of these Euro guys a bit of a run," Both said.
Cyclingnews will be presenting a video highlights throughout the event. click here for the riders presentation and briefing.