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Crocodile Trophy - NE
Australia, October 17-29, 2006
Race 1 - October 17: Townsville - Townsville, 15 km
Wet and windy start to Crocodile Trophy 2006
By John Michael Flynn
Back-to-back Prologue victories for Stevens
In a repeat of his 2005 performance, Belgian Christophe Stevens kicked off his 2006 Crocodile Trophy Campaign with a tempting prologue victory on the palm-fringed beach at Townsville in Tropical North Queensland today. Under dark, wet skies in the sweaty tropics, the former Chocolade Jacques pro road cyclist, who was unsure of his form until the midday race start, answered his own questions and those of fellow competitors by joining Austrian powerhouse Heinz Zorweg in a two man breakaway.
The pair, who on today's form shape as the two serious contenders for the 2006 Croc Trophy, blasted away the field of 43 riders (from 14 countries), to gain more than a minute on G.C., not that the margin will matter with twelve punishing stages and 1400 kilometres ahead.
"It was really hard compared to last year, the wind was just the opposite," Stevens said. "The beach was so hard on the legs."
The Belgian, who has been talking down his pre-race conditioning after training in Australia's Dandenong ranges where he lives with wife Anita whom he met on the Crocodile Trophy two years ago, knows from experience there is a long way to go in the race, rated by many as one of cycling's toughest.
"This is only one day, 12 kilometres - tomorrow's a bit different," Stevens said. "I don't know where I'm going to be after 130 - 140 kilometres. We'll see...but I know Heinz is the man to follow. Heinz is always strong, he can go 40-kilometres per hour for seven hours."
Zorweg, the quietly spoken mountain man from the Alps, has had a strong year in endurance mountain biking with a string of podium results in his home country, and appears set to challenge Stevens on the long road to Cape Tribulation in Far North Queensland where the race will end in two weeks time.
"I knew from the start that it was myself and Christophe can win the race so we went away from the group," Zorweg said. "It was not so hard today and I feel in good shape."
First Australian across the line today was the Felt Shimano Dream Team's Darren O'Grady in 11th place.
Austrian Dominique Angerer, one of two women competing in this year's Croc Trophy was the first woman to finish in 23rd place outright.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by John Flynn
1 Christoph Stevens (BEL) Belgian Bike Power 0.28.11 2 Valentin Zeller (AUS) Dream Team 3 Darren O'Grady (AUS) Dream Team 4 David Wood (USA) Dream Team 5 Fred/Francesco Gras/Wessels (NED) Dutch Crocodile Tandem 6 Stefan Rucker (AUT) Elk Haus 7 Ralf Peter Schnorr (SUI) Fitmanager.de 8 Toru Watanabe (JPA) Green Life Tohoku 9 Manuel Treven (AUT) Lietz-Sport Team 10 Ingmar Brichenfrid (AUT) Lietz-Sport Team 11 Harald Reisinger (AUT) Lietz-Sport Team 12 Niek Lingier (BEL) Lingier-Versluys MTB-TEAM 13 Frederik Dewilde (BEL) Lingier-Versluys MTB-TEAM 14 Rik Vincke (BEL) Lingier-Versluys MTB-TEAM 15 Erik Baeteman (BEL) Lingier-Versluys MTB-TEAM 2 16 Salvador Ribotipons (ESP) Matxacuca - Xaloc 17 Attila Marton (HUN) Meditech Sport Club - CIB Leasing 18 Günter Rafeiner (AUT) Mountainbiker.AT 19 Shane Laird (CAN) NSD 20 Joel Geny (BEL) P. Léger Artisan Chocolatier 21 Christophe Heinix (BEL) Passage Fitness First Oudaan 22 Michael Borup (DEN) RT-Adidas-Roadbike Shop 23 Cal Burgart (USA) San Diego Cyclo-Vets 24 Ronny Potter (BEL) SOWAT 25 Patrick Libert (BEL) SOWAT 26 Ole Egeblad (DEN) Team Descente - CSC 27 Christophe Desimpelaere (BEL) Team Descente - CSC 28 Erik Goeleven (BEL) Team MI Croc for Sofhea 29 Luc Gielen (BEL) Team MI Croc for Sofhea 30 Guy Lemmens (BEL) Team MI Croc for Sofhea 31 Struan Lamont (AUS) Team Scott Racing 32 Heinz Zörweg (AUT) Team Zörweg 33 Marco Bücken (SUI) Tri Team Glarnerland 34 Roger Freixenet (ESP) Yorky's 35 Dominique Angerer (AUT) 36 Hansi Friedl (BRD) 37 Charles Blanc (FRA) 38 William Bird (AUS) 39 Fulvio Villano (ITA) 40 Melanie Grant (AUS) Fastest woman 1 Dominique Angerer (AUT) 0.41.01