Less than a week away from the start of Australia's Crocodile Trophy mountain bike stage race, the first of the international arrivals have started landing in the tropical oasis of Cairns to enjoy the local hospitality, visit The Great Barrier Reef and saddle up for 10 days of racing.
Acclimatising to the steamy Tropical North Queensland conditions, Dutchman Paul Van Hattem made the most of a cruisy ride to the tumbling rainforest waterfalls of Crystal Cascades yesterday, following an invitation from the local Rattle & Hum team which is also competing in the race.
Van Hattem is the first of three riders and two support crews to arrive from the Dutch Crocodile Trophy team. Typical of many of the race's European visitors, the Dutchmen have gone all out with their Crocodile Trophy assault.
The team has set up a website, www.crocodiletrophy2009.nl, designed specific Crocodile Trophy jerseys, and has even shown up armed with Crocodile Trophy business cards.
For Van Hattem, an amateur cyclist, racing the Crocodile Trophy is the culmination of firstly a dream, followed by five years of solid planning.
That planning shifted to a new level when Van Hattem became aware that one of The Netherland's best-known sportsmen, former World and Olympic Champion Bart Brentjens had signed on to do the race.
"I was away on holidays when the news came through that Bart Brentjens was doing the Crocodile Trophy. When I arrived home my email inbox was full," Van Hattem said.
"For me it was big news that Bart was doing the Crocodile Trophy and the next few days, it was all over the news papers.
"Everybody was asking me questions about the Crocodile and about Bart."
The elder statesman of mountain biking in Europe and clearly one of the rolled gold legends of the sport, Brentjens is without question the most significant signing in the 15-year history of the race.
The former World and Olympic champion will arrive in Tropical North Queensland on Sunday, returning to the scene of his first Grundig World Cup victory in 1994.
He'll have just two days to acclimatise before tackling a brutal 98-kilometre opening stage to Lake Tinaroo on Australia's glorious Tropical Tableland, that includes 2,400 metres of climbing.
The Crocodile Trophy peloton for 2009 will include riders from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Italy, New Zealand, 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 it finishes on a tropical beach at Cape Tribulation, October 29.
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