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14th Crocodile Trophy - NE
Australia, October 21-30, 2008
Stage 1 - October 21: Mareeba - Irvinebank, 86 km
Czechs dominate stage one
By John Flynn
Czech team VIG+ racing dominated today's opening stage of the 2008 Crocodile Trophy, claiming all three men's podium places, in what proved to be a thoroughly dominant per-formance and an ominous sign for rivals. The Czechs attacked immediately following the race start on today's opening 80 kilometre stage from Mareeba to Irvinebank, using all six elite team members to build a stage win-ning lead, before the race hit the first serious off-road section. The team, built around two-time Crocodile Trophy second place-getter Ondrej Fojtik, showed it has a variety of attacking weapons at the 2008 edition of Australia's outback classic.
Champion marathoners Ivan Rybarik and Martin Horak featured in the breakaway move, but it was teammate Tomas Trunschka who stamped his name on the opening stage, crossing the finish line solo, with a blistering time of 2.37.10. Fojtik and Horak finished a further two minutes and thirty seconds back, to make it an all Czech podium. "We decided to ride together as a team on the opening asphalt section, but when we went into the bush it was every man for himself," Trunschka said.
The Czech's managed to put more than four minutes between themselves and their near-est international rival, Belgium's Nicolas Vermeulen, making it a commanding, but by no means race winning lead. "It was very good and we are happy we place in the first three, but the race is very long and this is only one day," the experienced Fojtik said as he considered the distant prospect of a Czech winning the 2008 Crocodile Trophy. "We are six people and the other guys are one or two. It's very important to have a team in this race and for me it is the first trophy when I have a team."
Fourth placed Vermeulen and sixth placed Australian Craig Gordon both struggled with the early pace on the asphalt, but both made up valuable time when the Crocodile Trophy moved to its favoured surface on the rocky washed-out trails of Australia's remote Far North.
Vermeulen, the Belgian marathon champion and Gordon, the former World 24 hour solo champion, both ended the day pleased with their overall efforts. "That road section at the beginning, I was in the second group and the Czech guys went away with the Merida guys," Gordon said. "As soon as we got to the dirt I picked my game up, but I was just caught napping."
The challenge ahead for Gordon is to ride with intent on the flatter sections and wait for the mountains to pounce, but he admits the Czechs have a distinct advantage. "If they've got four guys in the top G.C. it's going to be very hard," he said.
Vermeulen will also spend some quiet time under the outback's million evening stars, pondering how to beat the Czechs. "The legs are good, not super for me," Vermeulen said. "I made a little mistake in the first kilometres, the fist group rides away and I go, yes, no. "I lost four or five minutes today but it's not so bad, nine days to go yet."
Australia's top-rated team, Merida Flight Centre, had a difficult day on the road to Irvinebank. The team of Tim Bennett, Nick Both and Adrian Jackson was forced to dig deep chasing down the Czech breakaway.
And their day got a lot worse when Jackson crashed hard on a technical descent in the outback scrub west of Mareeba. "Just on the really technical, rough descent I wasn't paying attention enough and got in a rut and went over the hangers," Jackson said, recounting his nasty crash. The Victorian is sporting a wound to his chin and cuts to his wrist and legs but will fight on, hoping to payback teammates who stopped to check on his injuries.
Better news for Merida Flight Centre is the performance of Jo Bennett, who leads the women's category by more than four minutes from Belgian Karen Steurs. Bennett's background in ironman triathlon is sure to be a benefit as she looks to consolidate her position during tomorrow's second stage , a 128-kilometre journey from Irvinebank to Koombooloomba dam.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by John Flynn
1 Tomas Trunschka (Cze) VIG+Racing 1 2.37.10 (30.54 km/h) 2 Ondrej Fojtik (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 2.30 3 Martin Horak (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 4 Nicolas Vermeulen (Bel) 5.25 5 Ivan Rybarik (Cze) VIG+Racing 1 10.42 6 Craig Gordon (Aus) Rockstar Racing 11.13 7 Tomas Kozak (Cze) Laser Steel Plzen 11.49 8 Nick Both (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 1 14.17 9 Tim Bennett (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 1 10 Adrian Jackson (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 1 14.58 11 Christian Birngruber (Aut) 23.09 12 Alfred Schabauer (Aut) 23.14 13 Robert Novotny (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 25.16 14 Tim Calkins (USA) TKM / Slattery team 28.31 15 Benedikt De Vreese (Bel) Winter Vreese 32.01 16 Nathan Dyke (Aus) TKM / Slattery team 38.37 17 Petr Uhlik (Cze) 40.26 18 Stefaniak Wojciech (Pol) 19 Christophe Huybrighs (Bel) Team Ride for Stars 40.29 20 Gillis Van Loon (Bel) Team Ride for Stars 43.06 21 Raf De Bakker (Bel) 47.41 22 Steven Boury (Bel) 55.53 23 Karel De Winter (Bel) Winter Vreese 24 Sean Noonan (USA) 1.09.38 25 Bart Decroubele (Bel) Team Belgian Power 1.10.28 Elite women 1 Joanne Bennett (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 2 3.13.51 (24.76 km/h) 2 Karen Steurs (Bel) Team Ride for Stars 3.48 3 Naomi Hansen (Aus) 21.55 M1 1 Kris Hertsens (Bel) 2.54.47 (27.46 km/h) 2 Valentin Zeller (Aut) 2.50 3 Guido De Jong (Ned) 2.52 4 Stephens Reece (Aus) TKM / Slattery team 5.30 6 Zdenek Kriz (Cze) VIG+Racing 1 5.37 5 Kejval Lubos (Cze) VIG+Masters 7 Daniel Wyss (Swi) swisscrocs08 10.40 8 Philipp Zenklusen (Swi) swisscrocs08 14.45 9 Issac Tonello (Aus) 16.17 10 Bart Vancayzeele (Bel) 23.25 11 Erik Goeleven (Bel) Team Moozes 32.21 12 Matt Powell (Aus) 32.24 13 Mikkel Wichmann (Den) 34.03 14 Gunter Selleslagh (Bel) 38.31 15 Peter Geldhof (Bel) teamNomaDesk.com 39.07 16 Bert Apers (Bel) 49.47 17 Kristof Vanspauwen (Bel) Team Belgian Power 52.51 18 Ermanno Piccaro (Ita) ASD Vigili del Fuoco-Latina-Cinelli-Corratec 55.06 19 Guy Lemmens (Bel) Team Moozes 55.17 20 Philip Smith (GBr) 1.08.33 21 Mario Vandeweghe (Bel) 1.30.39 22 Bruno Verwee (Bel) 3.05.13 M2 1 Axel Strauss (Aut) 3.00.19 (26.62 km/h) 2 Ruedi Senn (Swi) swisscrocs08 9.13 3 Beat Imhof (Swi) 10.45 4 Ladislav Drda (Cze) VIG+Masters 12.38 5 Jiri Kriz (Cze) VIG+Masters 15.28 6 Marc Roggen (Bel) 19.18 7 Ewald Clavadetscher (Swi) 20 Jos Kerkhofs (Bel) Marc Herremans Foundation 23.51 8 Eric Vanderaerden (Bel) Marc Herremans Foundation 31.15 9 Luc Gielen (Bel) Team Belgian Power 31.39 10 Marc Withofs (Bel) 32.44 11 Darren O'Grady (Aus) Dream Team 33.06 12 Georg Vinczencz (Aut) 39.28 13 Patrick Mijlemans (Bel) Team A.S.P.A 44.14 14 Ronny Potter (Bel) Team A.S.P.A 1.02.17 15 Thomas Sollich (Ger) Dream Team 1.02.36 16 Rudi Donckers (Bel) Marc Herremans Foundation 1.15.28 17 Jos Lenaerts (Bel) Team A.S.P.A 1.22.52 18 Patrick Van Gelder (Bel) Team Moozes 1.27.57 19 Norbert A. Heinz (Ger) 2.03.13