Martin Wisata, the Adam Hansen of the Crocodile Trophy, sits down to chat with Cyclist ahead of their first attempt at Australia’s most iconic mountain bike stage race.
The name Martin Wisata may be unknown to most Aussie road enthusiasts but to anyone from the off-road crowd the Austrian’s name is synonymous with the Australian mountain biking scene. Martin and his partner Juliane are founders and directors of Rocky Trail Entertainment, the leading mountain bike race organisers in New South Wales. There must be something in the water over there as the Crocodile Trophy was conceived and organised by his fellow countrymen too. Working and being so heavily involved in the behind-the-scenes of racing only fuels his competitive spirit. He’s completed more Croc Trophies than anyone else and is still getting podium results.
Our Cyclist team has been spending a bit more time on dirt of late, since The Pioneer we’ve been trying to fine tune our skills. Think long days in the saddle, an overnight bike packing trip called #TheGreatOvernighter – we even raced one of Martin’s Rocky Trail events up at Singleton.
More recently, we got the opportunity to meet the man of outback and pick his brain on what Far North Queensland has in store and how best to prepare for it. Martin offers up some friendly and expert advice but we hope we are prepared because once that flag drops, we doubt we’ll see anything but his dust. Is it too late to switch to the 3-day option?
Cyclist: The Crocodile Trophy is an event we’ve followed almost since the beginning and it’s really changed a lot over the years. You’re lining up for your seventh (?) Croc, what spurs you on to keep coming back? Is there something special about this race or are you trying to become the Adam Hansen of the Croc?
Martin: It’s the 8th time I will be racing and the 10th edition of the Croc Trophy. It has become so much more than a race to me. While challenging myself is still the main goal, spending over a week with likeminded riders from all over the world is great fun. Cory Wallace once said it’s good to be around ‘high energy’ people who think going for a six-hour ride is normal. I know a lot of the faces now too. Riders, staff, organisers and commissaires. It’s almost like a family reunion for me.
C: How would you sum up this year’s race and what are the real highlights expected over the week? Will roadies like us have a few stages that suit our characteristics?
M: I have a gut feeling that this year will be brutal again. Lot’s of long stages where so much depends on the road surface and weather. Those two unknowns can make a cruisy ride into a very brutal one regardless of what it says on paper in terms of length and amount of climbing. There will definitely be stages for everyone. As a big and powerful rider, who is not afraid of technical sections, I will try and put the hammer down everywhere it’s not too hilly.
C: That said, what advice would you give those who spend more time on the pavement? Is the Croc a race that’s more suited to road cyclists these days, compared to editions of old?
M: You don’t have to be a very good mountain biker to compete successfully in the Croc. You’ll need off-road skills to win it but not to enjoy it. There are similarities with a road race but it’s still too different to be able to just use your road skills and get away with it. For example, you will never get a nice rolling peloton going if there are only two lanes you can use and everyone needs to jump across the middle section. Going to the front and staying there before taking a rest and going again makes more sense but pure roadies often try to get the rolling peloton going – which just won’t work.
Advice number one: don’t jump! There will be a ton of water bars and if you are not happy with both wheels in the air please slow down.
C: What kind of bike setups can we expect to see on the start line? Surely, a dual suspension has to be the way to go, unless you spend a lot of time on the dirt?
M: I have seen both duallies and hardtails being raced at the pointy end and all the way through to the lanterne rouge. Personally I am on a very comfortable Pivot Mach 429SL carbon frame. 29er wheels are the obvious choice. I still think a 2x (dual chainring) drivetrain setup has advantages but everyone seems to be using 1x (single ring) now. It’s a remote stage race, not some four kilometre XCO loop. Leave your ultralight stuff at home and err on the side of tough and sturdy.
C: How do you pack for an eight-day race that is fairly remote? We raced The Pioneer and think we packed pretty well earlier this year and had access to some towns across the week (read; milkshakes and chips). Does the Croc have anything like this?
M: I bring my own tent (tents are available from the organisers), sleeping bag and mattress. In terms of spares, I have spokes, bike specific screws, bearings and spare derailleur hangers. I don’t worry about food as there is always plenty around and very often we are near shops. Skybury even has a restaurant for in-between snacks.
C: Should we be packing our pockets and hydration backpacks with everything we need for the stage, barring water? Or are there enough feed zones to keep us topped up?
M: I take a lot of gels and a few bars out onto every stage. At the depots you generally get watermelon and some other snacks. There is plenty of food there but I don’t want to stop too long, that’s why I prefer to eat on the bike.
C: What are your essential spares and safety items that are carried with you across the week? Does this change at all for different stages?
M: On the bike I have two bottles, two tubes, four CO2 canisters, multi-tool which includes a chain breaker, 11-speed chain link, a few repair patches and a tiny pump. Additionally, a bit of duct tape and sometimes a few cable ties. There is a lot you can repair out there with duct tape and cable ties if you need to. I once had to build a saddle out of roadside debris! It wasn’t comfortable but it got me home.
C: You cross the finish line after a long stage. What can riders expect at the finish? Surely you’ve got a pretty firm routine following each stage?
M: Eat, eat and eat. Then drink like a fish – as many electrolytes as you can get in. After that, clean your bike and then yourself, sit around and chat with everyone. Do some social media postings and eat some more.
C: There’s no doubt a huge mix of mechanical ability at races like this. Will there be mechanical support at any of the feed zones? Can we also get our machines tuned up after each stage?
M: Yes there is mechanical support at the race and he will help with major repairs but he won’t wash your bike. There are practically no standards anymore for bike spares so make sure you bring anything specific for your bike and don’t come with carbon wheels and no spares wheels. Those hardly ever survive the Croc.
C: Finally, if you think back to your first one, that’s us, what’s the best piece of advice you would have like to have been told?
M: Ride yourself into the race and don’t stress too much about details at the beginning. Over supply rather than under in terms of water and gels out on track. Unforeseen things happen (e.g. cars break down and depots are not where they should be), don’t stress and be flexible.
C: Anything else?
M: I don’t try to become but am the Adam Hansen of the Croc Trophy!