Interview: Mark Frendo, Crocodile Trophy Winner

Words by Rocky Trail Entertainment, Mick Ross | Images by Tim Bardsley-Smith

On Sunday, 27th October 2013, the 19th Crocodile Trophy finished on Cooktown’s Grassy Hill and for the first time in eight years an Australian claimed the win. Mark Frendo from Brisbane conquered the oldest and hardest mountain bike stage race in the world and after nine days, 900km and more than 15,000m of elevation he finished in 30:40:17, ahead of the Canadian Cory Wallace and Jiri Krivanek from the Czech Republic. 

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Congratulations on taking out the 2013 Croc Trophy in such a calm and collected manner. Firstly, who is Mark Frendo, and where the heck did you come from?

I’ve been around a while, I used to race cross country as a junior, that was pretty full on, and I raced the world championships overseas twice. After that I raced under 23’s, and decided to go to university. I stayed in cycling, mainly racing locally, a bit of road and track racing too.

This year I signed up for the Mongolia Bike Challenge. One of my mates lives over there, and he was keen for me to come over and race. I guess my old competitive instinct just kicked in, and I trained really hard.

My only focus was training, other that sleeping and working I was training. After a few months, I had the best form of my life.

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Mongolia was going really well, but I got sick and couldn’t do what I had hoped and trained for. The next event on the calendar was the Croc Trophy, I had been talking to Cory Wallace from Canada, in Mongolia and he talked me into it. One month out from The Croc I decided I would give it a go.

I tend to get really full on into things, and then take long breaks. I’m not the best at racing all year long, for a whole season. It’s full on or nothing.

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I’m not too sure if these events are particularly my strength or not, I guess I don’t even know what type of rider I am. I just really enjoy these longer races. I’m definitely not into 24 hour races though, they are much tougher than this I think! Haha.

What can you do in only one month to prepare for this?

It’s only become warm in Brisbane recently, so I only got a few rides in the heat to prepare for this, but mainly I did long, back-to-back six to eight hour training rides, predominantly on the road and two to three rides on the mountain bike. Sometimes, two or three of these long rides would back to back, to help with my endurance.

You led the race from the start to the finish, was that the plan?

I secured a few good minutes in the first couple stages, and that suited me fine. I never really had a bad day, and that is the key with events like this. You can’t afford a mechanical, a flat tyre or a day where you physically blow up.

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On one of the longer stages Cory Wallace was attacking me so hard and so often, that with 5km to go we were so smashed, that we rolled in together. I couldn’t let him gain any time on me, so I had to stick with him at all times.

Your thoughts on the event?

I always thought I’d do the Croc Trophy, but it’s had a fairly bad reputation for being a long road race on mountain bikes, on badly corrugated roads. But, over the years it has changed, and it’s certainly a mountain bike race now. The first few days in particular, we took in all the best trails of Cairns and Atherton. My favourite part of the race was in Atherton, those trails are great, with nice forests and singletrack.

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I can’t believe that more Aussie mountain bikers don’t do it. Hopefully with my win, more locals will see it as an option.

Will you do it again?

There are so many races out there, I’m keen to try some multi-day races in Europe and North America, so The Croc may go down the list a bit, but I sure have enjoyed myself and would love to race it again.

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Any tips for those thinking of racing The Croc?

Look after your bike and body, it’s tough.

 

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