The 2015 Crocodile Trophy traverses a familiar path through North Queensland with over 100 starters vying to add their name to the list of previous winners. The 20th edition of the 'hardest' MTB stage race in the world starts with a 33km stage in the town of Smithfield, concluding eight days later with a 30km time trial from Cairns to Port Douglas. The trails of Atherton and Cairns, the holiday resort finish in Port Douglas and the lush rainforests and beautiful beaches ensure a perfect setting for riders and fans alike during the 'Croc'.
Retaining its S1 UCI rating in 2015, the 700 km plus race features some of the best marathon and endurance racers the mountain bike has to offer while several amateur cyclists will also be pinning on a number and trying their luck. With the Australian summer starting to heat up, the weather will be a key component in deciding the overall winner of the race. Rainforests will offer riders shade while lakes and beaches offer the opportunity to cool down with the knowledge that cool showers await the cyclists at the end of each stage, along with a chef prepared buffet, a thought that many will be clinging onto.
It's not only the terrain and weather that will test the competitors who must start and finish with the same bike frame unless part of a registered team with the swapping and exchange of bicycles permitted between team members. Support though is offered in the form of regular bike maintenance and should the pain get too great, medical support is also available.
The contenders for the Croc Trophy includes the likes of both domestic and international challengers in 2015. Greg Saw will aim to defend his title and become the first rider since Urs Huber to do so back in 2010. Australian marathon MTB champion Brendan Johnston will also challenge for overall honours and leads the domestic charge alongside Saw.
Huber makes his first return to the race since 2011 and will need to adapt to the changes in the course since his back-to-back victories. Fellow dual victor, Ondrej Fojtek, will be a rider to watch although with little endurance racing in his legs recently, he's likely to get better in the second half of the race.
Italian marathon champion Nicholas Pettina is considered to be a dark horse for overall victory after his recent Mongolia Bike Challenge victory. Denmark's Soren Nissen, Portugal's David Rosa and Israeli Rotem Ishay are three more riders likely to make a mark on the race. Making history at this year's race is Arnout Matthys as he becomes the first one-legged rider to take to the start line.
There is just one professional woman on the start list, Germany's Regina Genser (CRAFT - Rocky Mountain Team) although seven amateur women are registered to race.
For full coverage of the 2015 Crocodile Trophy including results, start list and previous winners click here.