So with this we’re going to try a bit of ‘he said, she said’ – my name is Juliane Wisata and I have been managing the Crocodile Trophy Press Office since 2010. Incidently, this was also the year that my husband Martin Wisata raced the event for the first time. He has done so each year ever since and the Crocodile Trophy has become a major part of our lives. Here are some thoughts about this legendary race – from a wife’s and crew member’s and from a hobby mountain biker’s perspective…
How it all began…
…I’m an Austrian living in Australia because of the Crocodile Trophy. Not many people know this about me, but my fascination with this race started when I was a teenager. Growing up in Austria, the Crocodile Trophy film on national TV was my first ‘window’ into Australia and I fell head over heals in love with this continent. I started dreaming about one day travelling Down Under and I never let go of that dream. After an internship in Sydney during my studies in 2001, I was offered a visa and a job and my then-boyfriend Martin was instantly excited and we moved into a tiny little cottage in Sydney’s Inner West in 2003. Straight out of uni, we sat on camping chairs instead of a couch and rode bikes because we didn’t have a car – on an ominous train ride into the Blue Mountains we slipped into the mountain biking community. That day changed our lives forever. Not only would we spend each and every Saturday and Sunday on our bikes with our new friends from all over the world, but we also started working on setting up our own mountain bike events organising business Rocky Trail Entertainment, which we got off the ground in 2008. That same year, we were introduced to Gerhard Schönbacher, founder of the Crocodile Trophy and my Australian destiny came full-circle. Martin worked as part of the crew for two years and caught the racing bug and that was how I became part of the crew.
My first Croc
…was in 2010. My husband raced it for the first time and I was there as his support person, but also as a translator for the media reports written by an Austrian journalist. What. An. Adventure. Exactly what I thought Australia would be like! Red earth, blue skies, hot weather, river crossings on day through dense bush, wide open landscapes and never-ending Outback Highways the next! I had such a good time and it was exhilarating being part of the crew that delivers such an incredible event.
As I moved into more of a advisory and Communications role for the event, it was great to see more and more Australians to come on board as racers and also as crew members over the last few years – the Crocodile Trophy is this incredible melting-pot of cultures and such a unique opportunity to race with like-minded riders and travelers from all over the World. I got to meet Tour de France finishers and stage winners and World Champions in all sorts of disciplines – both road and mountain biking – and what unites us all is that we are part of the Crocodile Trophy family. You spend a lot of time together and as a crew member you get to play a small part in the achievements of these racers… often even a smile and an encouraging “keep going” out on track means the world to them.
Media crew action
… is my dream come true! From 2010 onwards, for every Crocodile Trophy race day until 2014, I would be in the media 4WD car out on the race track and that´s where I really found my calling. I loved reporting about the athlete´s achievements, be so close to the racing action and see first hand what incredible performances the riders were capable of. I met so many amazing like-minded people and sitting together by the fire after the day´s racing (and watching and writing for me) are some of my fondest memories. As the years passed by, the media attention of the race – and ‘my’ media crew – kept growing. We are distributing daily media releases to a good 3,000 contacts world-wide along with image and video footage, uploading incredible amounts of data onto our media servers. In the Outback… often, we would drive spots with phone reception for hours away from the event centre, returning in the early morning hours. Then it was like, take a quick nap, take down the tent, make sure Martin has everything he needs for the day’s stage, quick breakfast, get all the gear to the luggage trucks, hop into the media car, shoot the start gun! Goooo!
One of the most vivid memories I have from the event was happening right after the photo below was taken… we had set up a makeshift press office in the main house at Wetherby Station after Stage 7 in 2014 and it got late, very late. I was the last one awake, writing, sending emails, posting, uploading data. That afternoon I had had a long chat with Wetherby´s owner, John, and he had told me all about the history of the place and how the first owners had settled there and built this house right along the main access road from the coast the gold mine fields. He told me about a female travelers who had died en route to the Goldfields and is buried on the property. He said that the inscription on the headstone reads “Georgina Mathieson, nee McPherson died in childbirth under a bullock wagon here at Yellow Clay Gully en route from Port Douglas to Thornborough. Born 1853 Died 14.1.1896” … I swear right there in the middle of the night with the Croc camp asleep outside, I could suddenly sense all that history, it was like someone was watching me, wandering through the quiet house. A gentle breeze… a tiny sound on the wooden floor boards… I had images of the day´s racing flickering across my mind on those gold mine trails… it was an eerie moment that was beautiful at the same time. I had this sense of belonging, it was like feeling… home. One of the many Croc memories that will stay with me forever.
Since the following year 2015, I have been supporting the event from my home office near Sydney – heavily pregnant that year I often had to think of the story of Georgina when I basically waddled back and forth between couch and computer, taking interviews on the phone and getting stories out, editing highlight films and uploading data.
Our little son will turn three this year and hopefully in 2019 I can return to Tropical North Queensland to help deliver the 25th edition of the Croc in person and welcome Martin at the finish for his 10th race… because, no doubt, he’s not going to stop!
Supporting the one you love
… can sometimes be tough. Not so much during the year when Martin trains for it, but at the race itself. I saw Martin turn his guts inside out to get to the finish line in that first and second year of the event – there were looooong days in the saddle (and in the 4WD cars), well above 100km days, venturing very deep into the remote Outback. It took me a while to stay cool, seeing him suffering, but ultimately realising that this was all part of this adventure. However, I feel Martin has found his “Croc-rhythm”, he knows what to expect now, knows how to prepare and he loves sharing his experience with other riders. He has become a Croc Ambassador and for years has acted as the official Rider Representative at the event. Participants can count on his support in the lead-up and during the race and over the last few years he has also assembled racing teams who raced together under the Rocky Trail Racing banner with him.
Because I love him and the race, I embrace that every ride and every race in the lead-up is his training for the Croc. We manage our family life around it all and even though it is hard work – both his training and riding and racing as well as the organisational preparations and the long hours in front of the computer and on the phone for me, the joy and thrill we both get out of it all, makes it all worthwhile.
This event has enriched our lives – with memories, travels, friendships and new opportunities to do what we love. Ride our bikes and put on and help put on events so more people can ride bikes.
The Croc Team
… is amazing! As an event organiser myself, I have the utmost respect for the organisers of the Croc – its founder Gerhard Schönbacher and the General Managers, Regina Stanger and Koenraad Vanschooren, all of whom have become dear friends.
Just like in the racing field, also the Croc crew has the ‘usual suspects’ that are at the ‘start line’ every year. Micha, the mechanic first wrenched at the race in 1999 (!), Regina was one of the racers in 1997 and has been working as the founder’s right-hand woman since 1998. From the regulars to the backpackers who help build up tents and cook up a storm to the Australian crew ‘force’ helping set the race track, every year we embark on a massive adventure, an insane logistical operation, just like the riders taking us through rainforests, bush, the Outback and for each and every crew member the arrival on Four Mile Beach is like the answer to a prayer. I remember, in 2014 a lot of us team members arrived before the first racers and we just lay there in the sand, staring up at the finish arch, knowing that we were about to witness tears of joy and relief and incredibly powerful moments between friends and family, the Croc family.
In this spirit, I can’t wait to see all the riders again at the 2018 – albeit via photos and video footage this year. And of course, to follow Martin’s journey once again from Cairns to Port Douglas.