Crocodile Trophy gets tougher

Shaken and stirred by the harsh reality of Australia's remote Far North, a cyclist who twice vowed never to return to the Crocodile Trophy has inked a deal to suit up to for a third shot at winning the race scheduled for October 23 to November 1.

Austrian Stefan Rucker (Elk Haus) entered the 2006 Croc Trophy in career-best form, but his dream of winning the coveted classic went horribly off-track when he took a wrong turn on the opening stage.

"Stefan went up a dry gully last year, as you Australians would say," Race Director Gerhard Schoenbacher said as the parcours for the 2007 event was revealed.

"He gets another chance this year, but the course will be tougher and the competition stronger in what I believe will be the most competitive Crocodile Trophy we have yet seen." The retirement of 2006 winner Christophe Stevens has opened up the race in 2007, and all eyes are on the return of consistent Hungarian Attila Marton, Czech hard-man Andrej Fojtik, and the rider who had victory in his sights in 2006, Dane Michael Borup.

In a similar cruel twist of fate to Rucker, a navigational error cost Borup (Team Ghost) dearly in last year's race, but the Dane fought back to record numerous stage wins – vowing all the while to return "gladiator style" this year and seek his vengeance.

The task this time around may not be so easy for Borup and his cohorts who will have to race for 10 days, with 1,400 kilometres packed into the schedule - and no rest day. The final five days are expected to be particularly brutal, with an average of 150 kilometres per day on the soul-destroying back roads across the savannah country and rainforest mountains at the Southern end of Cape York.

"We know from experience with this race, if it is hot, and normally that is the case, many of the riders will struggle to finish," Schoenbacher said. "It is our purpose with the Crocodile Trophy to find a worthy champion."

Sixty cyclists from 13 countries have already signed up, among them inspirational Belgian Ironman Marc Herremans, who aims to become the first hand cyclist to complete the race on a custom built bike. A full field of seventy cyclists is expected at the start line in Mareeba. The full schedule is below:

October 23: Mareeba – Irvinebank, 120km
October 24: Irvinebank – Koombooloomba, 128km
October 25: Koombooloomba – Wombinoo, 117km
October 26: Wombinoo – Chillagoe, 169km
October 27: Chillagoe – Chillagoe, 100km
October 28: Chillagoe – Mount Mulgrave, 145km
October 29: Mt Mulgrave – King Junction, 163km
October 30: King Junction – Laura, 156km
October 31: Laura Cooktown, 142km
November 1: Cooktown – Cape Tribulation, 148km

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.