Switzerland's Urs Huber will be back to defend his Crocodile Trophy title starting next Tuesday, October 18 in Cairns, Australia. Having won twice, he will take on two other previous podium finishers, including two-time runner-up Bart Brentjens of the Netherlands and Mike Mulkens of Belgium.
"It is definitely one of the hardest races that I know of and that I've done," said Huber. "For 10 days, there's nothing but heat and dust."
"To top it off, the track is fairly flat. On this terrain, it is almost impossible to claim a gap among the lead riders and still you mustn't loose track of your goals. That means, on those sections of the track where you can make a difference, you have to be ready. To be able to claim a gap on a difficult section after 100 flat kilometres is not easy. It's like you have to be able to flip the switch."
"Also, most riders sleep in tents, have to be self-sufficient and in the 10 days the whole field becomes like a big family. At most other races, this is not the case, at least not among elite riders. At the Crocodile Trophy this is part of the experience and that's a good thing."
Huber commented on what makes the Crocodile Trophy so tough, "The most challenging thing is being able to recover mentally over and over again throughout the 10 days. You have to relax after each stage and not stay absorbed by the race itself - somehow try to distract yourself from it, otherwise you use up too much mental energy."
"Of course you also have to be consistent over the 10 days, a weak moment means instant punishment. And then the gear has to be reliable as well - luckily, at my second Crocodile Trophy I again didn't have any mechanical problems at all."
Huber has been racing since 2002 and counts two Croc Trophy wins on his palmares, but he doesn't do anything in particular to prepare for the epic race.
"I don't do any special training for the Crocodile Trophy," said Huber. "From April until the end of September, I ride at a long endurance race in Europe practically every week. The Crocodile Trophy then is the final event and concludes my season. If possible, I try to throw in the one or the other longer training unit (>6hr) in September."
Olympic champion Brentjens is hoping this third attempt will be the one to net him the win. He is bringing along reinforcement in the form of his Milka-Trek teammate Jeroen Boelen.
"Slowly, but surely, it's time for a new Croc Champion," said Brentjens.
The racers will cover 1200km in 10 days over corrugated fire trails, the forbidding landscape of rocky service roads without an inch of shade, through the outback, in the Queensland October heat. There are road trains roaring past riders at such speed that the sand clouds created force them to get off the bike until they are able to see and breathe again. River crossings, steep descents, even steeper ascents. Scenery will range from dark red sand, vegetation ranging from barren bush to lush rainforest.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of the Crocodile Trophy.