Former (1987) Paris-Roubaix champion Eric Vanderaerden has been hard at work to prepare for the Crocodile Trophy, a mountain bike stage race in the Australian Outback starting on Tuesday, October 21. The 46 year-old Vanderaerden, who announced his preparation several weeks ago, arrived in Cairns almost unrecognizable after losing his mullet style hair-do and spare tire.
Looking light and fit, Vanderaerden, a Tour de France green jersey winner and yellow jersey wearer, started training seriously last winter in Belgium.
"I needed my fat burning down because I weighed too much last winter, and my wife said to me, 'It's time you work something out'," a 20kg lighter Vanderaerden said. "I said OK, I'll do the Crocodile Trophy again, but this time on a bike, not with the car with my friends." Last time around, Vanderaerden attend the race, but in the capacity of support crew, not as a racer.
Vanderaerden will be one of 30 Belgians on the start line in Mareeba. "I think every year it gets bigger and more Belgians know what it is, the Crocodile," Vanderaerden said. "One special thing I think for the Belgians, it's just one big adventure. It's a special challenge, a special holiday."
Last year, compatriot Marc Herremans helped raised the profile of the event when he completed the entire edition on a hand cycle. Herreman's sheer determination motivated Vanderaerden.
"What Marc do last year I think is incredible. Probably there will be days when I say what am I doing here? But I love Australia, I love the outback and I want to finish the Crocodile."
It will be Vanderaerden's second attempt. In 2000, he won two stages before abandoning with an ailment he attributed to "posterior trauma".
The ten-day, ten-stage race will finish 1200km later at Cape Tribulation on October 30.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for complete coverage of the Crocodile Trophy.