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Crocodile Trophy - NE
Australia, October 17-29, 2006
Race 12 - October 28: Cooktown - Daintree, 135 km
Wood wins at Wujal Wujal
A dream three years in the making
Australia's David Wood, the hometown boy from Cairns in Far North Queensland, capped off a much improved performance at the Crocodile Trophy of 2006 with a decisive victory in today's 106 kilometre mountain bike stage from Cooktown to Wujal Wujal.
Putting behind him a difficult campaign for the Felt-Shimano Dream Team, Wood rode an inspired race on a trail of steep up-hills, daring descents and magnificent rainforest river crossings.
It was the culmination of a dream three years in the making for the native North Queenslander, who joined the Crocodile Trophy in 2004, the same year G.C. leader Christophe Stevens made his race debut.
"I've always dreamed of winning a stage in the Croc Trophy and thought it was outside my abilities," a modest Wood said.
"But today I knew the track like no-one else did, it was going to be hard and fast, everyone was keen for a stage win on this one, being the last (full-length) stage.
Wood's win was popular for many reasons - the rider who has become part of the fabric of the race in recent years has laboured long and hard, firstly as a domestique for Adam Hansen and more recently with the Felt-Shimano Dream Team.
But today was one of those days when sport produces something truly beautiful.
When Wood first raced The Trophy, he rode alongside his best friend James Grant – the man who set up Adam Hansen's first race win. Grant later died during a mountain bike race in Victoria.
Today, the determined Wood was on a mission.
"That was my home territory and it was kind of special because the last time I rode that track was with James," Wood said.
"I guess it had a bit of meaning there and I got strength from that."
How it unfolded
Another unusually cool North Australian morning greeted the Crocodile Trophy protagonists as the peloton set off from Cooktown on the 106 kilometre journey to Wujal Wujal in the World Heritage Listed rainforest country of The Daintree.
Just as he had done two years ago, Frenchman Charlie Blanc led the peloton out of Cooktown, only this time there was no repeat of the disaster from 2004 when he was airlifted out of the CREB track with a broken collarbone.
The first attack of the day came on the tarmac as the Belgian Lingier-Versluys team sent its rider Frederik Dewilde up the road.
The attack had sentiment written all over it. Dewilde had made the journey to the Crocodile Trophy of 2006 as his last race before retirement in a ten year cycling career and was on the road to a top ten finish.
"I have all feelings come over me," an emotional Dewilde said post-stage.
"It's every day hard working here on the other side of the planet for us, I think it's a very good end of a career of ten years competition."
Two flat tyres ended any hopes of making the long distance breakaway work and as the riders headed south towards the Daintree, the serious contenders moved to the front.
Christophe Stevens, Stefan Rucker and David Wood blew off the challengers on the first decent climb and when the race reached the gnarly zig-zag track to Wujal Wujal, Wood dropped the accelerator.
Stevens crashed on the first corner of the Zig-Zag, but re-mounted quickly, deciding to take it easy and defend his lead on G.C.
"I talked to Woodsy the other day and we knew the last part of it was down hill and I just said, just hang on and then it's yours," Stevens said.
"That's the way it turned out to be."
Rucker held on longer, staying with Wood across the magnificent river crossing at Roaring Meg.
But the final five kilometres were custom made for the Australian, who let loose on the last descent.
"At the end, the downhill to the finish it was impossible to stay on Dave's back wheel, he drives downhill like the devil, it was really dangerous, what he does, it looks really safe but first Christophe crashed then I had a crash too," Rucker said.
"We both decided not to stay with Dave. It was good that he won, he's at home here and he was the strongest today."
Rucker crossed the line in second place, taking his tally for the Crocodile Trophy of 2006 to four stage wins and two second placings. It was a credible result for the Austrian, especially given the terrain. Today was serious mountain biking and Rucker showed vastly improved technical skills compared with his first Crocodile Trophy performance in 2005.
"A difficult stage, but a nice stage," Rucker said.
"Today I think I showed that I can mountain bike as well to the wide world."
Stevens wraps up the general classification
Successfully defending his race lead in the hills between Cooktown and Wujal Wujal, Belgian Christophe Stevens is now just sixty kilometres away from claiming his first Crocodile Trophy.
Just as in the case of David Wood, Stevens joined the Croc Trophy caravan in 2004 and has played a significant role in the event's recent history.
Today there was a sense of relief for the Belgian, knowing the ‘hard stuff' is over for this year, with only a sixty kilometre stage (including 30 kilometres of road) remaining on the journey to Cape Tribulation.
Winning the Crocodile Trophy has been a long term project for Stevens, and barring a freak act of nature on the road home, the title of Crocodile Trophy Champion is his.
"It's a race that is known all over Europe, and for me the Croc Trophy has always been special," Stevens said.
"Three years ago I met Anita here, my wife, last time I had a really good ride and now I'm winning it."
"Third time lucky, well the first time I was lucky actually!
"It's my last competition, so nice to stop with a victory."
Race to finish where rainforest meets the reef
For the riders in the Crocodile Trophy of 2006, tomorrow will bring great relief. At the end of sixty kilometres, the idyllic ocean beaches of Cape Tribulation and Cow Bay await.
At the end of 1400 kilometres the reality of finally climbing out of the saddle will be an emotional occasion.
The oldest man in the race, 64 year old Italian Fulvio Villano today crashed at the bottom of a descent 200 metres from the finish. But he plans to re-mount tomorrow and get it over with.
"This is always what I feel on the last day, you made it so far, don't break your neck today," the veteran adventure racer said.
"I don't even know how to describe it, the race was very hard, every stage had its difficulties, every single stage, even the ones that were described as easy by the race director.
"That's what I paid for, to suffer, we got it!"
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by John Flynn/Cyclingnews.com
1 David Wood (Aus) Dream Team 4.03.59 2 Stefan Rucker (Aut) Elk Haus 1.04 3 Attila Marton (Hun) Meditech Sport Club - CIB Leasing 4.39 4 Christoph Stevens (Bel) Belgian Bike Power 4.43 5 Manuel Treven (Aut) Lietz-Sport Team 8.20 6 Ingmar Brichenfrid (Aut) Lietz-Sport Team 10.26 7 Michael Borup (Den) RT-Adidas-Roadbike Shop 19.18 8 Struan Lamont (Aus) Team Scott Racing 23.07 9 Darren O'Grady (Aus) Dream Team 23.22 10 Joel Geny (Bel) P. Léger Artisan Chocolatier 24.18 11 Frederik Dewilde (Bel) Lingier-Versluys MTB-TEAM 25.23 12 Erik Goeleven (Bel) Team MI Croc for Sofhea 26.32 13 Ralf Peter Schnorr (Swi) Fitmanager.de 27.01 14 Christophe Heinix (Bel) Passage Fitness First Oudaan 44.27 15 Luc Gielen (Bel) Team MI Croc for Sofhea 51.22 16 William Bird (Aus) 1.01.20 17 Niek Lingier (Bel) Lingier-Versluys MTB-TEAM 1.01.45 18 Roger Freixenet (Spa) Yorky's 1.07.40 19 Charles Blanc (Fra) 1.13.38 20 Christophe Desimpelaere (Bel) Team Descente - CSC 1.14.05 21 Ole Egeblad (Den) Team Descente - CSC 1.18.16 22 Erik Baeteman (Bel) Lingier-Versluys MTB-TEAM 1.20.15 23 Cal Burgart (USA) San Diego Cyclo-Vets 1.23.16 24 Harald Reisinger (Aut) Lietz-Sport Team 1.27.50 25 Fred/Francesco Gras/Wessels (Ned) Dutch Crocodile Tandem Team 1.27.57 26 Dominique Angerer (Aut) 1.28.12 27 Marco Bücken (Swi) Tri Team Glarnerland 1.36.09 28 Hansi Friedl (Ger) 1.36.47 29 Günter Rafeiner (Aut) Mountainbiker.AT 1.36.52 30 Guy Lemmens (Bel) Team MI Croc for Sofhea 1.37.36 31 Shane Laird (Can) NSD 1.52.17 32 Melanie Grant (Aus) 2.06.58 33 Patrick Libert (Bel) SOWAT 2.11.33 34 Ronny Potter (Bel) SOWAT 2.14.01 35 Salvador Ribotipons (Spa) Matxacuca - Xaloc 2.27.32 36 Fulvio Villano (Ita) 2.29.16 37 Toru Watanabe (Jpn) Green Life Tohoku 2.56.17 38 Heinz Zörweg (Aut) Team Zörweg 39 Valentin Zeller (Aut) Dream Team 40 Rik Vincke (Bel) Lingier-Versluys MTB-TEAM 2 Women 1 Dominique Angerer (Aut) 5.32.11 2 Melanie Grant (Aus) 38.46 Most aggressive rider 1 Frederik Dewilde (Bel) General classification after stage 12 1 Christoph Stevens (Bel) 46.04.01 2 Attila Marton (Hun) 33.08 3 Stefan Rucker (Aut) 1.06.03 4 Ingmar Brichenfrid (Aut) 1.06.05 5 David Wood (Aus) 1.21.06 6 Manuel Treven (Aut) 1.52.04 7 Michael Borup (Den) 2.09.52 8 Struan Lamont (Aus) 2.30.18 9 Darren O'Grady (Aus) 3.14.32 10 Frederik Dewilde (Bel) 4.04.25 11 Christophe Heinix (Bel) 4.24.26 12 Erik Goeleven (Bel) 4.29.18 13 Joel Geny (Bel) 5.11.29 14 Luc Gielen (Bel) 6.04.02 15 Ralf Peter Schnorr (Swi) 7.38.32 16 Niek Lingier (Bel) 9.18.27 17 Ole Egeblad (Den) 11.05.08 18 Guy Lemmens (Bel) 11.35.37 19 Dominique Angerer (Aut) 12.02.56 20 Charles Blanc (Fra) 12.52.02 21 Cal Burgart (USA) 13.15.35 22 Harald Reisinger (Aut) 13.21.55 23 Fred/Francesco Gras/Wessels (Ned) 13.34.11 24 Erik Baeteman (Bel) 13.42.46 25 Marco Bücken (Swi) 13.45.16 26 Hansi Friedl (Ger) 14.00.10 27 Christophe Desimpelaere (Bel) 14.31.42 28 Günter Rafeiner (Aut) 14.37.21 29 William Bird (Aus) 15.28.57 30 Roger Freixenet (Spa) 16.00.40 31 Shane Laird (Can) 17.58.32 32 Patrick Libert (Bel) 19.27.40 33 Melanie Grant (Aus) 20.08.21 34 Fulvio Villano (Ita) 20.25.24 35 Ronny Potter (Bel) 20.44.16 36 Salvador Ribotipons (Spa) 22.16.09 37 Toru Watanabe (Jpn) 23.38.59 38 Heinz Zörweg (Aut) 39 Valentin Zeller (Aut) 40 Rik Vincke (Bel) Women 1 Dominique Angerer (Aut) 58.06.57 2 Melanie Grant (Aus) 8.05.25 Points classification 1 Christoph Stevens (Bel) 122 pts 2 Stefan Rucker (Aut) 115 2 Michael Borup (Den) 87 4 Attila Marton (Hun) 71 5 David Wood (USA) 62 6 Heinz Zörweg (Aut) 40 7 Ingmar Brichenfrid (Aut) 25 8 Darren O'Grady (Aus) 22 9 Niek Lingier (Bel) 20 9 Fred/Francesco Gras/Wessels (Ned) 20 11 Valentin Zeller (Aut) 17 12 Christophe Heinix (Bel) 10 13 Manuel Treven (Aut) 9 14 Luc Gielen (Bel) 5 15 Struan Lamont (Aus) 4 Most aggressive rider classification 1 Stefan Rucker (Aut) 5 pts 2 Fred/Francesco Gras/Wessels (Ned) 2 3 Dominique Angerer (Aut) 1 3 Christoph Stevens (Bel) 1 3 Christophe Heinix (Bel) 1 3 Frederik Dewilde (Bel) 1 Teams classification 1 Lietz-Sport Team 154.32.18 2 Team MI Croc for Sofhea 5.48.42 3 Lingier-Versluys MTB-TEAM 10.33.45 Out Dream Team