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11th Crocodile Trophy - October 18-30, 2005

Felt Dream Team diary

Index to all entries

That's a wrap!

The final three stages

All together now...
Photo ©: Christi Valentine-Anderson
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In the end, the Dream Team's apartment at the Cairn's Lakes Resort was littered with trophies, mounted crocodiles and truly niche souvenirs collected by the team over the past 15 days in the Australian Outback.

We won seven stages (five to Bettin and two to Hundertmarck), the point's competition, second overall for Bettin and the team competition (by five hours over the next team). We had four of our five riders in the top ten on General Classification and all finished with relatively minor injuries (mostly sustained at the playground after hours). To put it more succinctly the Dream Team rocked! We played hard and we rode like a professional team; as a result, we cleaned up at the awards ceremony. Kai Hundertmarck was awarded the James Grant Memorial shield as he was clearly the most flamboyant rider on tour. I look to seeing the one-hour TV show of this year's Crocodile Trophy; it should look like "the Kai Show", with one impressive clip of the awesome tumble by Jens Zemke, which the TV crew was there to shoot.

Here is just a quick recap of our last three stage victories. First, Cooktown went to Hundertmarck who jumped away early in the stage and soloed to victory. Hansen was so busy worrying about Bettin and conserving enough energy for the queen stage over the CREB track the next day, that he made no attempt to catch the German Ironman. This played well into Kai's hands as he only had ten minutes up his sleeve when he hit the bitumen and the gnarly head wind kicked into gear.

Mauro Bettin celebrates
Photo ©: Christi Valentine-Anderson
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Two years ago on this stage Alberto Elli was in exactly the same position - 16 minutes in front - when the pursuing Bettin and Hansen overtook him with 300 metres to go and Bettin won the stage. This year, however controlled, Bettin did flex his muscles a bit, and came second; 20 seconds in front of Hansen, as much to intimidate the young Australian as to gain precious time.

Zemke, for the first time in this gruelling event, showed a bit of raw aggression after his "endo" head first into a stinky still river. Jen's front wheel came to a sudden halt as it went into a black hole in the murky water. There was no chance for recovery and the lanky German was directly airborne. He sustained a big hematoma on his right elbow, which was the landing pad for the 80kg Equipe Nuermberger Director Sportif. "Then they were attacking right after my fall. And I was angry. I said, 'OK That's it, now they are going to have to follow me. I'll make them suffer,'" he said. But even when Jens speaks like this there is almost a feeling that he is joking - he's not the angry type. I haven't even heard him swear yet, and in this bike race everybody swears!

The Daintree stage is truly the most spectacular of all the stages. It is severe, technical and long. The question on the street wasn't "Who will win?" rather is was "By how much will Mauro Bettin win?" Hansen had a 25 minute buffer in the GC but as seen two years ago when Bettin took more than an hour from the Australian, Hansen was not overly confident that 25 minutes would be enough. Plus there is always the worry of a puncture on the jagged rocks and the 23% gradients. If Hansen were to come unstuck it could easily cost him that time.

Jens Zemke is exhausted
Photo ©: Christi Valentine-Anderson
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Bettin came across the line eight minutes in front of the two-time overall winner and moved into a secure second position. But don't think for one minute that was the end of the Italian's voracious appetite for results...he then rode to his fifth stage victory on the sands of Port Douglas. In the truest flavour of 'It ain't over 'till it's over', Mauro attacked Hansen 20 minutes into the final sandy crit and made him really suffer for the last 35 minutes of this 1500 km race. I think Bettin just likes to show that although he finished second in the 2005 event he was clearly the strongest rider in the field. It was acknowledged by all that had he not punctured three times on the Koombaloomba stage he would have won the race.

As soon as we had a minute to speak, Bettin said directly, "Next year I come back to win."

In Chilagoe, just after the time trial, Bettin and I sat down and began to plan for the Dream Team 2006. It's looking very Italian at the moment and on my telephone there is an sms from Alberto Elli, congratulating the Team and promising he will ride for the with us again next year. Hundertmarck and Zemke? Well Kai will surely be racing the Hawaii Ironman this time next year...maybe he should use the Ironman to train for the Croc Trophy - or maybe not! As for Zemke; I haven't had the heart to put pressure on yet, but surely he has my invitation.

Lars-Eric I think has had a gut full of corrugations, bull dust and suffering. He has, however, ridden extremely well this year and will be looking, I suspect, for a road team in 2006. David Wood is coming back and will be running the Dream Team service course here in Cairns so that I can avoid schlepping all the equipment back to Victoria to my home on the southern coast. Woodsy has been more than self-sacrificing in this event and his local knowledge has been invaluable! I honestly couldn't be happier - from the riders to Monika and Dr Nico, we've had one heck of a team this year and I felt that everyone did their level best to make sure we were in the results.

Stage 11 results
Stage 12 results
Stage 13 results


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Christi Valentine-Anderson