The Crocodile Trophy was founded by ex-Road Pro and Tour de France Racer, Gerhard Schönbacher. The Austrian first had the idea of organising a ´Tour de France´ type of cycle race for mountain bikes in 1993. Originally, it was planned to be the longest and most difficult mountain bike stage race in the world and was actually not supposed to take place in Australia but in Vietnam. It was to start in Saigon and finish in Hanoi 18 days and 2500km later. However, after spending two weeks in Saigon, Schönbacher realised that it wasn’t possible to organise the event he had visualised in that way there. Here our founder tells the story what happened next.
Australia, where I had been active as a pro-cyclist from 1982 – 1986, and where I had settled buying a house at the time was the perfect choice. – Gerhard Schönbacher
Gerhard assembled a team and flew to Darwin in the Northern Territory, studied the most accurate maps and finally decided on a route between Darwin and Cairns. In Darwin they collected as much information as they could on the route with the help of the local tourism organisation, police and ranger station. After a few days the team believed to have all crucial information together, even though it was all quite scanty. We were advised to obtain further tips from the farms along the way.
We left Darwin in an all-terrain vehicle packed with food and water, and headed on a recce mission towards the Kakadu National Park, a world heritage site and one of the most beautiful nature parks in the world.
The most difficult thing had been to find challenging routes and tracks which could still be ridden on a mountain bike. The individual stages had to be less than 180km, which was not always possible as the crew soon found out as sometimes there was no farm, water station or even a river at the end of such a distance.
Searching for a name for the event, Schönbacher went through all the Australian animals, from “Koala GP” to “Kangaroo Challenge”, but nothing felt right until the third or fourth evening during the recce mission.
Where we camped on the river bank having a few glasses of wine and tossing around ideas for a name, when a warning sign board suddenly drew our attention: “Don’t swim – Crocodiles” – This sign struck us. We finally had the name for our event. The “Crocodile Trophy” was born.
The first Crocodile Trophy was held in 1995 and took riders from Darwin to Cairns. It had 17 stages and the racers had to complete 2,556km. The race route has changed for every edition ever since and has it´s current home in Australia´s “Tropical North Queensland”.