I sold my house in Australia and financed the first two Crocodile Trophy. The mountain bike challenge is not only for bikers. The organizers also take risks. Read more about this event and his founder Gerhard Schoenbacher. This is the last interview to the five toughest MTB races in the World.
Recently, the Mountain Biking UK magazine selected the five hardest MTB races in the world. Crocodile Trophy (CT) is one of the top five.
What makes CT one of the hardest MTB races in the world?
Those riders who took part in several race around the world called the Crocodile Trophy after finishing – the event as the hardest race in the world. There is also a saying “If you want to belong to the best road cyclists in the world you have to do the Tour de France. If you want to call yourself a real mountainbiker you have to do the Crocodile Trophy once in your lifetime”. The 1.200 km and 14.000 hm through very rough country, sandy sections, rocky trails, old goldmines tracks, corrugations, river crossing, heat and dust gives you the answer. Beside all that there is no luxury during the entire race, no civilization, no mobile phones, no news, sleeping in tents….back to the roots. The Crocodile Trophy is no doubt the most adventurous mountainbike event.
What do you think makes CT different from other events?
I don’t like to compare but we are trying to keep the race very familiar, we personally taking care of the needs of the individual participants before during and even after the race. After each stage we all (approx.20 nationalities) are sitting around a campfire someone plays on a guitar and everyone sings together. We also integrate the local communities. I enjoy very much to know almost everyone by name after a few days – and I want to have time to speak with the participants. That is possible because we always kept the number of participants low. We have volunteers who are working with us since 12 years – we have participants who have done the Crocodile Trophy 7 times already.
How many bikers attended the CT last year and how many were women?
Until last year we had a maximum number of 100 participants, among them 4 women. This year we will open it for 200 riders as we have a large number of interested riders.
What kind of bikers usually go on the CT?
Olympic and Worldchampions, Ex-Tour de France riders, Pro-teams and a large number of well trained recreational cyclist, General managers from big companies, Celebrities, Airforce Pilots, Police officers. Almost half the riders are good prepared recreational bikers.
What percentage of the participants finish?
It always depends on the weather. We had very hot years but we also had very unusual wet days as well. An average between 70 and 90 percent. But we allow each rider who pulls out during the race to be part of the race until the last day. If someone wants to continue on his bike he can – out of the classification.
How did the CT originate?
After my career as professional road cyclists (Tour de France etc) in 1987 I started to get involved in organizing events such as Tour of Austria. In 1994 I found out that there is no long stage race like Tour de France for mountainbikers. I flew to Vietnam first but realized that the bureaucracy is still a problem and went further to Australia where I still had good connection from my time as pro-cyclist. When we drove from Darwin to Cairns we knew that is it…..I sold my house in Australia and financed the first two Crocodile Trophy.
How has the CT evolved through the years?
We always concentrated on quality not quantity, plus we didn’t have a big budget to spend for worldwide marketing. We grow slowly but steady. Meanwhile the event is covered worldwide by Print, Online-media and TVStation. We realize that more and more teams and companies are interested because the good publicity in the media.
For this year we have changed the concept of the circuit, we have shorter stages but smaller tracks therefore more terrain for mountain bikes.
How many people are involved in the organization?
During the event approx. 80 people.
Where do the funds come from to finance the event and what percentage comes in from (sponsors, fee participants, hosting city, etc)?
About 60% from the entry fees, 30% from sponsors and 10% of the funds from the region.
Finally, what would you say to a biker to convince him to choose the CT over other MTB races?
I would say if you are looking for an adventure on a bike the Crocodile Trophy is something you will remember forever. The word of mouth recommendation from the participants is the best publicity. But there are many organizers of mountain bike races around the world who can offer great and challenging events. Each of this events is unique because the landscape the people and the culture where it is held.