Three days out from the start of Australia's iconic Crocodile Trophy, the race's European combatants are already feeling the heat of what is sure to be a race-defining opening stage from Cairns to Lake Tinaroo on Queensland's Tropical Tableland.
Conducting pre-race reconnaissance, a selection of the Crocodile Trophy's early arrivals had barely reached the foot of the race's opening climb for 2009, the infamous "Copperlode", when they struck trouble.
For Belgian Geert Matthijs, acclimatising to the Crocodile Trophy conditions proved a mighty challenge. He drained two one-litre biddons in the first 10 kilometres of the ride.
"Almost cooking, 100 degrees (Fahrenheit), so it's very hot today," a jovial Matthijs said as the mercury climbed above 30 Celsius degrees. "I sweat a little, and you can't drink enough, especially when you climb."
Austrian Lisa Pleyer, considered one of the leading contenders in the women's event, enjoyed the chance to test her climbing legs but chose wisely to take it easy in the steamy conditions.
"It's not as bad as I was expecting it to be, but it's very hot and I think it's going to get hotter in the days ahead," a concerned Pleyer said. "I've got no choice, it's hot, and I'm going to have to get on with it."
A doctor by profession, Pleyer has done her research on the Crocodile Trophy and has heard more than a few "gruesome tales" on the sort of physical and mental scars the race can inflict upon riders.
The Austrian also has a strong Crocodile Trophy connection through her coach Rob Hotter, who wrote his own piece of race history with a stage victory in the 2004 edition, which was won by Team Columbia HTC's Adam Hansen.
"He (Hotter) told me it would change me, I would be a different person afterwards, and I should be prepared for that," Pleyer said.
The Crocodile Trophy's marquee rider, former World and Olympic Champion Bart Brentjens, will jet into Cairns on Sunday, leaving just one full day of rest before the race begins on Tuesday.
Competitors will assemble at the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon on Monday for the official race briefing and rider presentation. The Crocodile Trophy will start adjacent to the Lagoon on the Cairns Esplanade on Tuesday morning.
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