Martin Wisata will be at the Crocodile Trophy start for the ninth time in 2018. As such he is the current record holder of most consecutive Croc races completed in a row. The Austrian who has been living in Australia since 2003 has had quite the journey with this event, which has shaped not only his attitude towards cycling, but which has become a pivotal part of his everyday and family life. Since 2008 he has been organising mountain biking events with Rocky Trail Entertainment in NSW and the ACT and after joining the Crocodile Trophy team as part of the track marking crew that year, he could not help but compete.
Martin has been at the start line every year since 2010 and with Rocky Trail Racing founded his own Croc racing team. He now shares his racing experience with fellow racers as the official Rider Representative and Global Event Ambassador.
Here he chats to us about what the Croc means to him and why you should not stress too much about ‚getting ready for it‘ …
After the Croc is before the Croc. – Martin Wisata
CROC: You are about to race the Crocodile Trophy for the ninth time in a row… please explain 🙂
Martin: I met Gerhard Schoenbacher about 11 years ago when we started Rocky Trail Entertainment and we became very good friends over the years. I helped out first at the Croc for a couple of years but then decided that I’d rather race that beast. It went from: ‚let’s survive it once‘ to a yearly obsession of mine.
CROC: What does it mean to be the current World Record holder of most Crocs finished in a row?
Martin: To be honest the results I was able to achieve at some of them mean more to me than the world record of most races finished. That just means I can ride them out but standing on a podium next to a cycling legend means you had to work very hard for that. However I am still proud to have been able to achieve that many finishes in a row. I got to know my body and it’s limits very well over the years and learned how to manage that. Managing risk is also a big factor: descending at 80% capacity means I loose a few seconds but at least I won’t crash or get a flat tyre.
CROC: The Crocodile Trophy has undergone a lot of change over the past few years – how have you experienced that?
Martin: There were very big changes, mainly in distance and brutality of the race, and it’s a good thing. If we ride around 120km a day that means I can actually race them. If you are doing over 150 it’s for me only about getting to the finish line. Racing is more fun than rolling around so I do like the format of the event we have now.
CROC: What memories do you have of you first Croc?
Martin: It’s the race that broke me as a bikerider and then rebuilt me from ground up. Those 10 days have changed the way I ride a bike forever. My setup was quite hectic too: I rode with 4 bottles attached to the bike. 2 on the downtube and 2 behind my saddle – TT style. I also didn’t want to get into trouble with tyres so opted for pretty big rims. All up my bike fully loaded was around 16kg. But back then the only goal was to finish and I achieved that.
CROC: What does your ‚typical‘ race day look like at the Croc?
Martin: Eat, drink, ride, rest, eat, drink, sleep and chat with a lot of high energy people around the campsite. Time flies really fast and with packing, unpacking getting the bike and yourself ready for the next day the days fill up quickly. Another reason to try and finish fast 🙂
CROC: Has racing it become an addiction?
Martin: Absolutely. My entire year on the bike revolves around the Crocodile Trophy. How many weeks are there until the race? How much weight would I like to loose until then. What other races are good to get the legs ready. When can I get solid training blocks in? Who will be on the team this year? Who is going to support us?
CROC: You organise 20 mountain bike races a year in Australia yourself with your own business, you have a family including a toddler son, you travel to and work in Europe each year for 2-3 months and this year the Croc will be the fourth stage race within five months of each other. How do you prepare for the race in between all of that?
Martin: Hardly anyone has the time to train as much as he/she wants to for a big race. So why stress about it. I won’t be able to keep up with the big guns anyways so as long as I feel that the legs are ready for the race and my body weights is roughly there I am happy. I enjoy riding a bike and trying to fit in 20 hour training weeks just isn’t realistic. I ride as often as I can and want. If I am not feeling it, I don’t.
CROC: Would you say that you and your riding and racing have changed along with the race?
Martin: Yes, definitely. The world does get flatter after you’ve done a Croc!
CROC: What an impact has this event had on your life?
Martin: Apart from the racing side at the race you make friends for life. Staff, volunteers and riders form a very special bond and when you suffer (in a positive way) with someone for hours together in bonds you. I like how you can race very hard against someone else, attack him all day and then laugh about it afterwards at dinner.
CROC: What are you looking forward to the most each and this year?
Martin: Hard to say. The whole experience: from arriving in beautiful Cairns, getting ready, doing pre-race interviews with the press (feeling like a pro), to the pre-race nerves on the Esplanade, then the ‚routine‘ of racing your bike every day, to finishing on the 4 Mile Beach in Port Douglas and the tiredness that follows. It’s magic and wonderful. Like being in a totally different world for 10 days or so.
CROC: May we ask you for three tips for a first-time racer at the Croc?
Martin: Don’t be afraid of the race but respect it! Be prepared for unexpected things that can be thrown at you – like ‚wait a while‘ branches that rip holes in your skin while riding along in the jungle. Or depot cars that got a flat tyre and setup wherever they are now stuck.
Bring spares! I have heard the line ‚…but I have never broken a spoke in my life‘ way to often up there. Hardly anything is compatible anymore and bikeshops are hard to find. Also if you bring carbon wheels a spare set is a good idea.
Set out some goals pre race and be happy when you achieve them. Almost everyone has at least 1 tough day on the bike and if your goal is to finish focus on that rather than getting upset that you dropped a few places in GC.
CROC: The last and obvious question: how many more?
Martin: Many 🙂 Ten will be a good number to achieve but I don’t see a reason to stop after that….
Watch highlights from Martin Wisata’s „Journey to #croc9“ below.
Photos: Regina Stanger, Kenneth Lorentsen and Igor Schifris for Crocodile Trophy