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13th Crocodile Trophy - NE
Australia, October 23-November 1, 2007
Stage 8 - October 30: Laura - Cooktown, 142 km
Rucker wins Queen of stages as Bettin secures general classification
By John Flynn in Cooktown
Austrian Stefan Rucker today completed his major objective for the Crocodile Trophy of 2007, winning the event's "Queen of Stages" from Laura to Cooktown in Australia's remote Far North. Rucker was part of a four man group that powered away from the start of the 140-kilometre stage, as the protagonists encountered the dust and deep corrugations of the aptly named Battle Camp Road.
"Two years ago when I was riding The Crocodile the first time I thought it would be really nice to win in Cooktown," Rucker said. "Last year I won four stages but it wasn't a good year. After the trophy I promised that I'd come back and try to win here, that was my main goal."
The group containing Rucker, race leader Mauro Bettin of Italy, Luxembourg's Benoît Joachim and Dane Allan Carlsen, surged ahead after just three kilometres of today's stage. Czech Ondrej Fojtik, Bettin's main rival in the general classification, missed the jump after suffering problems with his chain and lost seven minutes. Only a major mechanical issue or injury during tomorrow's stage through the Daintree could prevent Bettin from taking away his very first Crocodile Trophy, given his overall lead of 25 minutes.
Still, Italy's former World Cup Champion wasn't entirely satisfied with the result, given the Felt Dream Team was perfectly placed with two riders out of the four in the lead group with one kilometre to go. Rucker was forced to respond to an attack from the Dream Team's Benoît Joachim before the base of Cooktown's iconic Grassy Hill, and in the process managed to drop Bettin. "I am a little bit happy today, it's OK for the [general] classification," Bettin said. "Tomorrow is a good stage, I think I may be the winner, maybe."
How it unfolded
After camping overnight in the spiritual Quinkan country of Laura, the survivors of the Crocodile Trophy were farewelled by the region's traditional owners and sent on their way along the hellish Battle Camp Road. Pre-race talk around the campsite suggested the pace was going to be on from the outset, and the rumour came to fruition as the leader of the general classification, Italy's Mauro Bettin, took the initiative.
The peloton disintegrated in seconds, due to a combination of the power being exhibited by the race leaders and the sand and corrugations, which are deeper along this section of road than anywhere on the Crocodile Trophy's epic journey. The first major victim was Czech Ondrej Fojtik, the second-placed rider in the overall classification, whose chain malfunctioned in the soft sand. He could only watch as the lead group of four, along with any slim chance he had of taking the race lead from Mauro Bettin, disappeared up the road.
"At the beginning I had some problems with my bike and the strongest people went away," Fojtik said. "I stayed with Radek Sibl and other people in the second group as it was important for the stage. I know that I will make second place (overall), but I'm sorry that I'm not the winner of the stage."
Dane Michael Borup (Team Ghost), who emptied the tank during yesterday's stage to Laura, fought with all he had left to stay with the lead group, but couldn't hold on as Bettin, Joachim, Rucker and Carlsen ploughed ahead. "Well, my body, it was just screaming with pain," Borup said. "In my head I was trying to tell myself just hold on, hold on." In the back of Borup's mind was the memory of blowing up on the same stage last year. This time around, the luck again went against the Dane, as the deep corrugations, capable of rattling bikes to pieces, created problems.
Borup stayed with the chase group through the worst sections, but the effort came at a cost. "I lost two bottles in the corrugated sections and I ran out of water for twenty minutes before the depot and in the sun I just burned," Borup said. Among the strongest riders in the five-rider chase group was Australian Tim Bennett, who received a tip-off from Bettin pre-stage that the pace would be intense. Built more for the hills, the Flight Centre team leader lacked the wattage to stay with the Trophy's power-brokers, but it was by no means a fruitless ride.
"The front group took off so hard at the start that only a few could manage to go with it and in the end I got [together] with a few guys and we agreed to work together," Bennett said. "Bettin, he told me that he was going to do that and I knew what was going to happen. I tried to stay at the front, being the size that I am it's pretty hard to power through that sand and the big corrugations as fast as they do." Bennett was the second rider from the chase group (behind Fojtik) to reach the summit of Cooktown's Grassy Hill. The result providing an overall placing of fourth in the general classification, almost a minute in front of Czech Radek Sibl.
In the women's race, Italy's Michela Benzoni continued her consistent performance at the Crocodile Trophy on a day when she once again had the better of many of her male rivals. "The start today was very, very difficult," Benzoni said post-stage. With a lead of more than three hours over her nearest rival, fellow Italian Sandra Klomp, only an unforeseen incident will prevent Benzoni joining compatriot Mauro Bettin on an all-Italian winner's podium when the race finishes at Cape Tribulation in two day's time.
Herreman survives stage 8
For the second day in succession, Belgian ironman Marc Herremans endured more than twelve hours on the road, to keep his dream of finishing the Crocodile Trophy alive. A physically shattered Herremans wheeled his hand cycle into the Crocodile Trophy's Cooktown campsite shortly after 8p.m. local time, and was immediately taken away for urgent treatment by the race doctor. His intention is to start tomorrow's stage to The Daintree, but it will be a difficult call for the race doctor, who will need to consider the exposure Herremans has suffered for two days in succession.
As it stands, Herremans' feats in this years race are beyond what might be considered reasonable for any human to endure, yet he refuses to be beaten by one of the harshest environments on earth. Tomorrow's stage is pure mountain biking, with steep hills, technical descents and deep river crossings as the race ventures into the World Heritage Listed Daintree Rainforest.
The Crocodile Trophy continues ….
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by John Flynn/Cyclingnews.com
Images by Regina Stanger
1 Stefan Rucker (Aut) Elk Haus 5.22.03 (26.46 km/h) 2 Mauro Bettin (Ita) Dream Team1 1.04 3 Joachim Benoit (Lux) Dream Team1 1.33 4 Ondrej Fojtik (Cze) Toyota Dolak 7.04 5 Tim Bennett (Aus) The Flight Centre Team1 7.43 6 Radoslav Sibl (Cze) Team Ironbike - Bikezone 8.41 7 Michael Borup (Den) Team GHOST - avj.dk 22.19 8 Attila Marton (Hun) Meditech Sport Club - CIB Leasing 30.41 9 Nick Both (Aus) The Flight Centre Team2 30.52 10 Brett Anderson (Aus) Trak Cycles 33.51 11 Dennis Van Mill (Aus) Team Gordon Street Cycles - Solid Stairs 40.40 12 Jacob Agger Troelsen (Den) Team Wonsild - www.wonsild.dk 47.17 13 Ryan Hawson (Aus) The Flight Centre Team1 56.06 14 Roman Stastny (Cze) Rock Machine - Cyklomax 1.08.04 15 Gerald Bauer (Aut) Publicity PowerBike Team 1.14.15 16 Max Becker (Lux) Dream Team1 1.18.02 17 Patric Wiedmer (Swi) Wiedmer-RRGLMV 1.18.11 18 Lukas Mraz (Cze) X - SPORTS 1.18.28 19 Dave Wood (Aus) The Flight Centre Team1 1.21.23 20 Matt Hubber (Aus) 2.10.51 21 Daniele Avico (Ita) 2.43.46 22 Dario Cerisara (Ita) Cicli Giorgio 3.58.28 23 Marc Herremans (Bel) Team Heremans 7.35.57 24 Dirk Van Gossum (Bel) Team Heremans 25 Glenn Creynen (Bel) Team Heremans M1 1 Allan Carlsen (Den) Alb-Gold Mountainbike Team 5.23.53 (26.31 km/h) 2 Roberto Haegdons (Bel) Belgian Joven Team_01 21.17 3 Ewart Van der Putten (Ned) HERBALIFE-MERIDA 29.08 4 Salvatore Paolo Albano (Ita) Pedale Travisio 31.00 5 Allen St Pierre (USA) 31.07 6 Chrisophe Heinix (Bel) Team www.sjette.be 37.40 7 Valentin Zeller (Aut) Endurance Team Kärnten 46.11 8 Karel Peelman (Bel) 47.35 9 Robby Lemmens (Bel) Belgian Joven Team_02 1.16.43 10 Christophe Desimpelaere (Den) Riis Cycling 1.16.52 11 Christoph Herr (Ger) Team Radsport König 1.34.07 12 Franz Schwoediauer (Aut) Hrinkow Bikes 1.35.29 13 Struan Lamont (Aus) Team Scott 1.43.27 14 Mauro Canale (Ita) Team Ironbike 1.55.58 15 Christan Hofer (Aut) Radsport Janger 1.56.42 16 Philipp Zenklusen (Swi) World Wide Erne Spirit 2.09.10 17 Roman Petr (Svk) 2.12.21 18 Lloyd Newell (Aus) Team Gordon Street Cycles - Solid Stairs 2.12.29 19 Bohuslav Babor (Cze) X - SPORTS 2.24.07 20 Josh Freeman (Aus) Team Gordon Street Cycles - Solid Stairs 2.48.43 21 Günter Rafeiner (Aut) KTM Mountainbiker.at 2.58.20 22 Joan Valbuena Roset (Spa) Valbuena 3.06.47 23 Giovanni Roveri (Ita) Cicli Giorgio 24 Juan Kolbe Castillo Inga (Spa) Valbuena 25 Jose Ezequiel Garcia Carmona (Spa) Valbuena 26 Michalak Slawomir (Pol) Bank BGZ Team 3.58.59 DNF Ugo Dalla Riva (Ita) Cicli Giorgio M2 1 Lieb Loots (SA) Squirt Lube 6.01.48 (23.55 km/h) 2 Willy Welles (Ned) Mega-NPB.NL 9.20 3 Rudolf Senn (Swi) World Wide Erne Spirit 42.26 4 Kurt Alderweireldt (Bel) Kyphon 1.05.00 5 Freddy Compernolle (Bel) Team www.sjette.be 1.07.14 6 Greg Featonby (Aus) Full Cycle of Albury 1.34.34 7 Scott McLennan (Aus) Abs Security 8 Han Vaalt (Ned) Klein-Puelhuis 1.36.26 9 Christan Sengstbratl (Aut) SV Lichtenberg 1.46.12 10 Wallace King (Can) Athleteslowyer.de 2.29.51 11 Eduard Pleschutznig (Aut) Endurance Team Kärnten 2.41.53 12 Dave Webb (Aus) Marco Polo (CTBE) 3.19.42 13 Franz Duller (Aut) Fincon - CML 14 Joseph Kerkhofs (Bel) Belgian Joven Team_01 3.20.11 DNF Peter Dalziel (Aus) Team Dalley DNF Hennie Schoonheim (Ned) NO Worries Women 1 Michela Benzoni (Ita) Team Lissone Isolmant 6.10.41 (22.98 km/h) 2 Sandra Klomp (Ita) Team Ironbike 1.10.50 3 Marika Covre (Ita) Bike Pro Action 2.19.59 4 Helle Sejersen Jepsen (Den) Riis Cycling 3.05.00 5 Lindy Vandevenne (Bel) Belgian Joven Team_01 3.11.18 General classification Elite men 1 Mauro Bettin (Ita) Dream Team 33.29.44 (28.63 km/h) 2 Ondrej Fojtik (Cze) Toyota Dolak 25.42 3 Tim Bennett (Aus) The Flight Centre Team 49.23 4 Radoslav Sibl (Cze) Team Ironbike - Bikezone 50.18 5 Michael Borup (Den) Team GHOST - avj.dk 58.18 6 Stefan Rucker (Aut) Elk Haus 1.13.41 7 Joachim Benoit (Lux) Dream Team 1.42.09 8 Attila Marton (Hun) Meditech Sport Club - CIB 2.24.07 9 Brett Anderson (Aus) Trak Cycles 2.31.48 10 Nick Both (Aus) The Flight Centre Team 2.47.55 11 Jacob Agger Troelsen (Den) Team Wonsild - www.wonsild.dk 2.52.43 12 Gerald Bauer (Aut) Publicity PowerBike Team 3.22.09 13 Dennis Van Mill (Aus) Team Gordon Street Cycles 3.40.52 14 Ryan Hawson (Aus) The Flight Centre Team 4.16.30 15 Max Becker (Lux) Dream Team 4.22.59 16 Dave Wood (Aus) The Flight Centre Team 4.53.37 17 Roman Stastny (Cze) Rock Machine - Cyklomax 6.07.19 18 Patric Wiedmer (Swi) Wiedmer-RRGLMV 7.30.00 19 Matt Hubber (Aus) 10.05.50 20 Lukas Mraz (Cze) X - SPORTS 10.17.47 21 Daniele Avico (Ita) 12.07.12 22 Dario Cerisara (Ita) Cicli Giorgio 27.27.21 23 Marc Herremans (Bel) Team Heremans 41.54.29 24 Dirk Van Gossum (Bel) Team Heremans 25 Glenn Creynen (Bel) Team Heremans Points classification elite men 1 Mauro Bettin (Ita) 100 pts 2 Stefan Rucker (Aut) 79 3 Joachim Benoit (Lux) 60 4 Ondrej Fojtik (Cze) 44 5 Radoslav Sibl (Cze) 32 6 Michael Borup (Den) 27 7 Gerald Bauer (Aut) 25 8 Tim Bennett (Aus) 22 9 Nick Both (Aus) 15 10 Max Becker (Lux) 10 11 Attila Marton (Hun) 2 Teams classification elite men 1 Dream Team 106.14.23 2 The Flight Centre Team 4.14.24 3 Team Ironbike 10.23.58 4 Team Gordon Street Cycles 20.48.13 5 Belgian Joven Team_01 40.18.50 6 Valbuena 43.27.11 7 Team Heremans 117.54.34 M1 1 Allan Carlsen (Den) Alb-Gold Mountainbike Team 34.05.04 (28.14 km/h) 2 Valentin Zeller (Aut) Endurance Team Kärnten 1.21.34 3 Roberto Haegdons (Bel) Belgian Joven Team_01 1.24.37 4 Ewart Van der Putten (Ned) HERBALIFE-MERIDA 1.42.53 5 Allen St Pierre (USA) 1.48.30 6 Salvatore Paolo Albano (Ita) Pedale Travisio 2.23.02 7 Chrisophe Heinix (Bel) Team www.sjette.be 2.48.37 8 Karel Peelman (Bel) 4.51.08 9 Robby Lemmens (Bel) Belgian Joven Team_02 5.54.11 10 Christophe Desimpelaere (Den) Riis Cycling 6.45.40 11 Struan Lamont (Aus) Team Scott 6.49.25 12 Mauro Canale (Ita) Team Ironbike 7.14.41 13 Christan Hofer (Aut) Radsport Janger 7.33.57 14 Franz Schwoediauer (Aut) Hrinkow Bikes 7.47.12 15 Lloyd Newell (Aus) Team Gordon Street Cycles 7.59.38 16 Christoph Herr (Ger) Team Radsport König 8.20.52 17 Roman Petr (Svk) 10.31.12 18 Philipp Zenklusen (Swi) World Wide Erne Spirit 10.39.15 19 Joan Valbuena Roset (Spa) Valbuena 13.05.59 20 Jose Ezequiel Garcia Carmona (Spa) Valbuena 13.15.06 21 Giovanni Roveri (Ita) Cicli Giorgio 13.40.35 22 Josh Freeman (Aus) Team Gordon Street Cycles 13.42.14 23 Bohuslav Babor (Cze) X - SPORTS 14.51.02 24 Michalak Slawomir (Pol) Bank BGZ Team 20.59.15 25 Juan Kolbe Castillo Inga (Spa) Valbuena 21.05.17 26 Günter Rafeiner (Aut) KTM Mountainbiker.at 22.08.01 M2 1 Lieb Loots (SA) Squirt Lube 37.40.29 (25.45 km/h) 2 Willy Welles (Ned) Mega-NPB.NL 28.27 3 Rudolf Senn (Swi) World Wide Erne Spirit 2.24.42 4 Kurt Alderweireldt (Bel) Kyphon 5.35.26 5 Scott McLennan (Aus) Abs Security 6.02.33 6 Greg Featonby (Aus) Full Cycle of Albury 6.03.26 7 Freddy Compernolle (Bel) Team www.sjette.be 6.14.10 8 Christan Sengstbratl (Aut) SV Lichtenberg 7.34.21 9 Wallace King (Can) Athleteslowyer.de 11.39.43 10 Han Vaalt (Ned) Klein-Puelhuis 12.33.32 11 Eduard Pleschutznig (Aut) Endurance Team Kärnten 16.49.19 12 Joseph Kerkhofs (Bel) Belgian Joven Team_01 17.50.38 13 Dave Webb (Aus) Marco Polo (CTBE) 21.46.32 14 Franz Duller (Aut) Fincon - CML 27.58.39 Women 1 Michela Benzoni (Ita) Team Lissone Isolmant 37.45.08 (25.40 km/h) 2 Sandra Klomp (Ita) Team Ironbike 3.13.06 3 Marika Covre (Ita) Bike Pro Action 8.50.39 4 Lindy Vandevenne (Bel) Belgian Joven Team_01 17.47.17 5 Helle Sejersen Jepsen (Den) Riis Cycling 17.57.10