Insider: Crocodile Trophy – Stage 2 – Cairns to Lake Tinaroo

The third shortest stage of the week featured more climbing than all but the Queen stage. Today, the race really begun. Welcome to the Crocodile Trophy.

Words: Alex Malone

Images: Crocodile Trophy / Igor Schifris


After yesterday’s lung-opening circuit race, today, the Croc would really begin. The relaxed start from Cairns Esplanade Lagoon would allow riders to begin their slow roast in the Queensland sun before taking in a whopping amount of climbing to the final resting place for the night at Lake Tinaroo.

The opening would be run on sealed tarmac to Copperlode Dam before cutting onto the trails and skyward to the towering ridgeline above. Riders said it would be the toughest part of the entire week. They were right…

Stage 2 – Cairns to Lake Tinaroo

Rolling out for a 10km neutral at 9:30 meant the sun was well and truly bearing down when the gun was fires. Out of Cairns City and towards Copperlode Dam, the bunch was already sweating and downing much of their fluids before the stage had officially begun.

A quick (Queensland time) stop at the entrance to the main ascent – after climbing for 20 minutes – and we were off, grinding our knobbly tyres on the road up to and over 500m above sea level, before plummeting down to the Dam wall and into the wilderness. This is where the sealed road climb gave way to the kind of concrete ‘wall’ that has ridges to provide better traction for 4WDs. With gradients touching over 27% and the odd foot dab here and there, it would be more than 40 minutes of suffering before reaching the ridge line for some reprieve.

The three World Champs riders of Leandre Bouchard, Andrew L’Esperance and Anton Sintsov would be minutes ahead by this point and with former professional Erik Dekker up the road in a solo escape, the four leaders went about pushing on into the outback.

In who seems to be our (my) nemesis for the week, Ondrej Slezak would again pull away on the steeper slopes of the climb before unfortunately missing a critical turn and ending up minutes behind at the finish. The organisers would later adjust a number of riders’ times after heading off-piste during the stage.

For the front runners, it was a day of simply making it to Lake Tinaroo in one piece. Sintsov took the stage with Bouchard and L’Esperance given the same time after some confusion during the final dash to the line.

‘We helped each other with the bikes over the fences and gates,’ said second-place on the stage and overall leader Bouchard. The games started towards the finish but Sintsov got the better of us,’ he added.

Haley Smith finished a very respectable 14th and will retain her lead in the Elite Women’s category. Smith may be the sole elite female racing the Croc but she’s simply shifted her goals for the week. Now, it’s about racing the entire field and making it to the finish.

‘We made an agreement before coming here that any prize money would go to our Disney World fund,” said Smith prior to the start. ‘I’ve got an obsession with it and really want to go.’ It seems she’s well on her way to achieving her next off-bike dream.

The finish in Lake Tinaroo provided a perfect location for the evening with its 650m elevation and moderate winds giving relief from the day’s sun.

Tomorrow is undoubtedly the queen stage with 2,600m of climbing to be conquered over just 100km.

Stage 2 – Details

Strava activity:
Distance: 66.8km
Time: 3:18:30
Total elevation: 2,018m (corrected)
Maximum temperature: 33 degrees (felt like 40!)

Stage 2 – Results

See full results here: