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Crocodile Trophy - NE
Australia, October 17-29, 2006
Race 13 - October 29: Cow Bay - Cow Bay, 30 km
Bravo Christophe Stevens! Belgian wins Crocodile Trophy at third attempt
Austrian Manuel Treven claims final stage
At the end of 1400 kilometres and thirteen stages, across hundreds of thousands of corrugations, from the vastness of the Australian Outback to the magnificent rainforest of the Daintree, the strongest rider in the Crocodile Trophy of 2006 crossed the finish line as the ultimate victor. His name - Christophe Stevens of Belgium.
And what a way to end a cycling career!
Stevens, who will officially put his bike in the garage for good after today, crossed the finish line on the beach in beautiful Cow Bay, where wife Anita, the bride he met at his first Crocodile Trophy two years ago, was waiting.
The Belgian finished more than a half an hour (33.08) in front of his nearest rival Attila Marton of Hungary, with Stefan Rucker of Austria (1.05.58 in arrears) - one of the most improved riders in this event, third in the General Classification.
When the final standings are etched into Crocodile Trophy history it will go down as a victory well deserved. Stevens proved himself the best cyclist in the race - one which demands skills across all areas of cycling, riding on tarmac roads, dirt roads, mountain tracks, across corrugations, sand, rocks, mud, steep ascents and gnarly descents.
"It's nice to finish on a beautiful location like this and it's so nice to win the Croc Trophy," Stevens said at race end.
"I didn't think I was ready for it two weeks ago, my body responded a lot better than I expected."
"That's it for me, no more competition for me, if I ride my bike now, it's to the bakery - if it's not raining and if the car's not there - just to bike for fun."
For those who witnessed Stevens' first assault on the Crocodile Trophy two years ago, it was an inspiring turnaround. He came to the race in 2004 as an accomplished road racer, but the Australian Outback almost destroyed him.
Bravely, the Belgian returned in 2005 - riding strong, but without luck. His return this year might have come with a lesser preparation, but the knowledge he had gained over two previous Crocodile Trophy experiences clearly shone through.
"I think the stage toward Chillagoe, I knew I was good, but I didn't expect my body was still capable of doing something like that," Stevens said.
"Seeing professional cyclists suffering on your wheel, it gives you great motivation.
"I really love the Croc Trophy."
Treven's luck finally turns around - the last man standing
Today's stage took the Crocodile Trophy peloton on a short journey through the World Heritage Listed Daintree Rainforest between Wujal Wujal and Cow Bay - a stage punctuated by two frightening climbs - the steepest yet on the Croc Trophy of 2006.
In what has become something of a tradition at the Crocodile Trophy, the riders voted to stay together as a bunch for the first forty kilometres, enjoying each other's company - a camaraderie developed from spending two weeks together, camping in the Australian bush.
The serious race kicked off when the mountains were out of the way .. with a frantic last twenty kilometres along the flat country between Cape Tribulation and Cow Bay.
There was still much up for grabs in the race, in particular the battle for third place overall between Stefan Rucker and Ingmar Brichenfrid (both of Austria).who were separated on the G.C. by only five seconds.
As the racers hit the beach, it was the same two riders who collided, creating a domino effect among the leaders.
"I just tried to stay on Ingmar's back wheel, with 150 metres to go there was the cross, it was really strange, even a little bit dangerous for a sprint, we crashed and Manuel was the first who came on the sand, he deserved to win," Rucker said.
"I was a little lucky that I was on the bike faster than Ingmar, lucky for me in the last stage to get third on G.C."
The Felt-Shimano Dream Team's Darren O'Grady scrambled over the line to claim second place - but it was Treven's day.
For a rider who has ridden luckless in the Crocodile Trophy, and suffered from nine flat tyres along the way, a victory in the final stage provided the perfect reward.
"Yeah the finish was great, I wanted to sprint for Ingmar (Lietz-Sport team-mate) and these two guys, Ingmar and Stefan crashed behind me, so I got the stage.
The last ten kilometres, the speed was on, everyone wants to win, and we wanted to sprint.
There was some consolation for Brichenfrid, the Austrian Lietz-Sport team wrapped up the Crocodile Trophy teams classification.
"Was a tough day, I had a good position here in the finish, we came onto the sand, I made a mistake, I crashed, with Stefan also," Brichenfrid said.
"He was faster on the bike than me, so it's ok."
Dominique Angerer wins women's title
One of the standout riders on today's stage was Austrian Dominique Angerer, who climbed the steep ascents of the Daintree Rainforest equally as well as many of the men in the race.
The Austrian triathlete turned in an impressive performance in the Crocodile Trophy of 2006, and will consider lining up for the race again in the future.
"I am happy, it's a great feeling to finally finish," Angerer said.
"I think the adventure, to go there with a lot of nice guys and to meet new people.
"For me the hardest part was yesterday, the day before, because my legs were so painful.
"The mountainbike sections were fun."
Wood the best Australian
There were celebrations also for the Felt-Shimano Dream Team's David Wood, who finished overall in fifth place - making him the highest placed Australian in the Crocodile Trophy of 2006. His race, capped off with yesterday's stage victory.
"Great sense of accomplishment, great to be here to help Mel (Grant - second placed woman) get through it, and to achieve my goals myself and I got a top ten and a stage win, so I'm stoked."
The award for best post race comment, though, went to Wood's best friend - Team Scott's Struan Lamont.
Along with riding himself into a top ten place, Lamont - the guitar man - entertained the Crocodile Trophy riders by the camp fire each night.
"The legs are feeling tired, but I'd rather ride again tomorrow, than go to work," Lamont said.
"It's a good feeling in the heart to see other people finish and be so happy to have achieved something that's monumental to them.
I just had a fantastic two weeks, in one way I never wanted it to end, but it had to and it couldn't have been any better."
Also enjoying his Crocodile Trophy experience in a suffering sort of way was CSC's Ole Egeblad.
Today, for the first time in the race, Egeblad was in the mix in the final kilometres, until his luck ran out.
"I had my only crash in the race 45 metres before the finish line," Egeblad said.
"My tyre blew out 45 metres before the finish line."
Still unsure if he'll return for a second Crocodile Trophy - due as much as anything else to what is termed ‘corrugation induced posterior trauma', the Dane felt better for the experience. "I like it, the combination of adventure and racing," Egeblad said.
" I think the race has got a fantastic potential because you combine both the adventure things for people who like that and also the racing for the most competitive types."
Tonight the Crocodile Trophy riders, support staff and friends will sit down to a sumptuous end of race dinner in the rainforest of Cow Bay, trading stories about the race until the early hours of the morning.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by John Flynn/Cyclingnews.com
1 Manuel Treven (Aut) Lietz-Sport Team 48.38.38 2 Darren O'Grady (Aus) Dream Team 33.08 3 Stefan Rucker (Aut) Elk Haus 1.05.58 4 Ingmar Brichenfrid (Aut) Lietz-Sport Team 1.06.05 5 David Wood (Aus) Dream Team 1.21.06 6 Christoph Stevens (Bel) Belgian Bike Power 1.51.49 7 Luc Gielen (Bel) Team MI Croc for Sofhea 2.09.52 8 Ole Egeblad (Den) Team Descente - CSC 2.30.18 9 Fred/Francesco Gras/Wessels (Ned) Dutch Crocodile Tandem Team 3.14.22 10 Frederik Dewilde (Bel) Lingier-Versluys MTB-TEAM 4.04.25 11 Niek Lingier (Bel) Lingier-Versluys MTB-TEAM 4.24.26 12 Erik Goeleven (Bel) Team MI Croc for Sofhea 4.29.18 13 Christophe Heinix (Bel) Passage Fitness First Oudaan 5.11.29 14 Attila Marton (Hun) Meditech Sport Club - CIB Leasing 6.04.02 15 Michael Borup (Den) RT-Adidas-Roadbike Shop 7.42.41 16 Joel Geny (Bel) P. Léger Artisan Chocolatier 9.18.27 17 Struan Lamont (Aus) Team Scott Racing 11.05.08 18 Christophe Desimpelaere (Bel) Team Descente - CSC 11.51.20 19 Ralf Peter Schnorr (Swi) Fitmanager.de 12.16.45 20 Erik Baeteman (Bel) Lingier-Versluys MTB-TEAM 13.13.43 21 Günter Rafeiner (Aut) Mountainbiker.AT 13.34.11 22 Dominique Angerer (Aut) 13.38.59 23 Guy Lemmens (Bel) Team MI Croc for Sofhea 13.45.19 24 Charles Blanc (Fra) 13.48.45 25 Cal Burgart (USA) San Diego Cyclo-Vets 14.13.05 26 Harald Reisinger (Aut) Lietz-Sport Team 14.28.03 27 Marco Bücken (Swi) Tri Team Glarnerland 14.35.51 28 Hansi Friedl (Ger) 14.43.56 29 Ronny Potter (Bel) SOWAT 16.10.45 30 Patrick Libert (Bel) SOWAT 16.42.28 31 William Bird (Aus) 18.40.20 32 Toru Watanabe (Jpn) Green Life Tohoku 20.09.28 33 Roger Freixenet (Spa) Yorky's 20.50.09 34 Salvador Ribotipons (Spa) Matxacuca - Xaloc 21.07.12 35 Shane Laird (Can) NSD 21.26.04 36 Fulvio Villano (Ita) 22.57.57 37 Melanie Grant (Aus) 24.20.47 DNF Heinz Zörweg (Aut) Team Zörweg DNF Valentin Zeller (Aut) Dream Team DNF Rik Vincke (Bel) Lingier-Versluys MTB-TEAM 2 Fastest woman 1 Dominique Angerer (Aut) 2.48.26 2 Melanie Grant (Aus) 3.16.25 Final general classification 1 Christoph Stevens (Bel) 48.38.38 2 Attila Marton (Hun) 33.08 3 Stefan Rucker (Aut) 1.05.58 4 Ingmar Brichenfrid (Aut) 1.06.05 5 David Wood (Aus) 1.21.06 6 Manuel Treven (Aut) 1.51.49 7 Michael Borup (Den) 2.09.52 8 Struan Lamont (Aus) 2.30.18 9 Darren O'Grady (Aus) 3.14.22 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) 7.42.41 16 Niek Lingier (Bel) 9.18.27 17 Ole Egeblad (Den) 11.05.08 18 Guy Lemmens (Bel) 11.51.20 19 Dominique Angerer (Aut) 12.16.45 20 Charles Blanc (Fra) 13.13.43 21 Fred/Francesco Gras/Wessels (Ned) 13.34.11 22 Cal Burgart (USA) 13.38.59 23 Harald Reisinger (Aut) 13.45.19 24 Erik Baeteman (Bel) 13.48.45 25 Marco Bücken (Swi) 14.13.05 26 Hansi Friedl (Ger) 14.28.03 27 Christophe Desimpelaere (Bel) 14.35.51 28 Günter Rafeiner (Aut) 14.43.56 29 William Bird (Aus) 16.10.45 30 Roger Freixenet (Spa) 16.42.28 31 Shane Laird (Can) 18.40.20 32 Patrick Libert (Bel) 20.09.28 33 Melanie Grant (Aus) 20.50.09 34 Fulvio Villano (Ita) 21.07.12 35 Ronny Potter (Bel) 21.26.04 36 Salvador Ribotipons (Spa) 22.57.57 37 Toru Watanabe (Jpn) 24.20.47 38 Heinz Zörweg (Aut) 39 Valentin Zeller (Aut) 40 Rik Vincke (Bel) Fastest woman 1 Dominique Angerer (Aut) 60.55.23 2 Melanie Grant (Aus) 8.33.24 Points classification 1 Stefan Rucker (Aut) 125 pts 2 Christoph Stevens (Bel) 117 3 Michael Borup (Den) 87 4 Attila Marton (Hun) 71 5 David Wood (USA) 64 6 Heinz Zörweg (Aut) 40 7 Darren O'Grady (Aus) 37 8 Ingmar Brichenfrid (Aut) 30 9 Manuel Treven (Aut) 29 10 Niek Lingier (Bel) 20 11 Fred/Francesco Gras/Wessels (Ned) 20 12 Valentin Zeller (Aut) 17 13 Christophe Heinix (Bel) 10 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 4 Christoph Stevens (Bel) 1 5 Christophe Heinix (Bel) 1 6 Frederik Dewilde (Bel) 1 Teams classification 1 Lietz-Sport Team 162.39.33 2 Team MI Croc for Sofhea 5.41.01 3 Lingier-Versluys MTB-TEAM 10.16.20