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14th Crocodile Trophy - NE
Australia, October 21-30, 2008
Stage 10 - October 30: Ayton - Cape Tributlation, 48 km
Australia's Hansen honoured with stage win
Australia's Naomi Hansen, the woman who for the past 10 days has managed a smile, even in her darkest moments, was handed the ultimate accolade by her fellow Crocodile Trophy combatants today when the race reached its final destination of Cape Tribulation in Tropical North Queensland. As the peloton rolled onto the beautiful beach, fringed with World Heritage Listed Rainforest, race winner Ondrej Fojtik (VIG+ Racing) steered his bike to one-side, making way for the Coopers Shimano Dream Team cyclist, who crossed the finish line in first place to claim the stage winner's boomerang.
In his role as leader of the peloton, a humble Fojtik approached Hansen at today's final drink station on the road through the Daintree Rainforest to ask if the she would accept the honour of leading the bunch home. Under race rules, the final stage of the race is not timed, and ultimately it is up to the riders to decide how the race ends.
For those who were here in 2007, it brought back memories of the day the peloton stopped to honour Belgian ironman Marc Herremans and it may well be that the 'right of passage' on the final stage will become a tradition at Australia's Outback Classic.
"It was amazing, I was just flattered actually when Ondrej came up to me and told me," Hansen said. "I didn't know what to say, I was just so grateful and it was just awesome."
Hansen, the Noosa veterinarian who has taken time away from practice to pursue her cycling dreams, finished third in what will be remembered as the strongest women's contest yet staged at the Crocodile Trophy. The dogfight between eventual winner Karen Steurs of Belgium (Race For The Stars) and Jo Bennett of Australia (Merida Flight Centre) was captivating.
Hansen's efforts too were worthy of merit, but it was the upbeat Australian's spirit of adventure, warmth and character around the race campsite that epitomised what the Crocodile Trophy is really about.
"It was full of ups and downs, like a roller-coaster," Hansen said. "There were days when you felt really great, days when you felt like crying thinking you're not going to finish and then, in the end, it all came good.
"Just amazing to finish, amazing and I'm going to come back next year," she said.
Friendships formed in Australia's outback
When the peloton departed the village off Ayton this morning on its final journey through the mountains of the Daintree, the spirit of friendship in the peloton was everywhere to be seen. According to race tradition, bikers went in procession until the final drink station and the mood turned to one of celebration, not just for the riders, but also the event staff who kept the Crocodile Trophy caravan rolling.
On the road cyclists, who just weeks ago were complete strangers, swapped jerseys and embraced as members of what race organiser Gerhard Schoenbacher has long described as the "Crocodile Trophy Family".
Australia's Craig Gordon, who toiled for days on end against the un-relenting might of the Czech Republic's VIG+ Racing, shared much of the scenic stage with Ivan Ry-barik, the man he came to describe as "the Ivanator" thanks to his habit of blasting away the opposition with pure power.
Gordon, who finished fourth, can expect a visit sometime soon from the bulky Czech, who plans to stay in Australia over the summer, to train in relative warmth.
"The Euros are very friendly people and they're always willing to talk and help you out," Gordon said. "I've spent a lot of time in Europe racing on the World Cup circuit and they're good people.
"If some guys are here, I give them my address if they want to come and stay," he added.
Gordon hasn't ruled out a return to the Crocodile Trophy after a 2008 campaign that can be best described as a great learning experience. He also won the event's queen stage to Cooktown.
"I tell you what I learnt how to ride in sand and bulldust now, it took me maybe seven days but I've got it down-pat now," he said.
It said much that the top three placings at the 2008 Crocodile Trophy - Ondrej Fojtik, Martin Horak and Tomas Trunschka - all went to Czech cyclists from the mountainbiking juggernaut VIG+ Racing. The team came to the race with a plan and, as race supremo Gerhard Schoenbacher pointed out, it was a plan executed with military precision.
"There were seven riders, some of them very well know in the World Cup, they had a mechanic a masseuse, they had a doctor, they had everything that you need to win a bike race like this," he said.
Most of all, what VIG+ Racing had was Ondrej Fojtik, a cyclist with the right attributes, right attitude and, of equal importance, the knowledge gained from two previous campaigns.
Fojtik and his team-mates had every right to celebrate with a swim in the ocean at Cape Tribulation. Still, at the forefront of Ondrej's thoughts was wife Pavla, a member of the Crocodile Trophy family, who this year stayed at home in the Czech Republic awaiting the birth of the couple's child.
"This is a very big day in my life," an overjoyed Fojtik said. "It was my big dream and I am so happy now.
"This was the most difficult Crocodile Trophy for me, not so much physically, but psychologically," he added.
The physical and mental battle ultimately took its toll on Belgian Nic Vermeulen who, at least for a time, appeared to be the only cyclist capable of matching the Czechs in the variety of Crocodile Trophy disciplines.
Emotionally drained following the stage from Laura to Cooktown, Ver-meulen's tank ran dry yesterday on the infamous zig-zag track near Wujal Wujal. He too will consider a Crocodile Trophy comeback, but on vastly different terms.
"Next year I should come back with the entire Belgian National Team," Vermeulen said in a light-heared dig at VIG+ Racing. "I think I made the race a race against the Czechians.
"It's a beautiful end of my season so I'm happy," he said.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by John Flynn/Cyclingnews.com
Elite men 1 Ondrej Fojtik (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 1.56.00 2 Robert Novotny (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 3 Martin Horak (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 4 Tomas Trunschka (Cze) VIG+Racing 1 5 Ivan Rybarik (Cze) VIG+Racing 1 6 Nick Both (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 1 7 Adrian Jackson (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 1 8 Nathan Dyke (Aus) TKM / Slattery team 9 Tim Calkins (USA) TKM / Slattery team 10 Christophe Huybrighs (Bel) Team Ride for Stars 11 Gillis Van Loon (Bel) Team Ride for Stars 12 Benedikt De Vreese (Bel) Winter Vreese 13 Karel De Winter (Bel) Winter Vreese 14 Bart Decroubele (Bel) Team Belgian Power 15 Craig Gordon (Aus) Rockstar Racing 16 Tomas Kozak (Cze) Laser Steel Plzen 17 Alfred Schabauer (Aut) 18 Christian Birngruber (Aut) 19 Petr Uhlik (Cze) 20 Nicolas Vermeulen (Bel) 21 Stefaniak Wojciech (Pol) 22 Steven Boury (Bel) 23 Raf De Bakker (Bel) 24 Tim Bennett (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 1 Elite women 1 Joanne Bennett (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 2 1.56.00 2 Karen Steurs (Bel) Team Ride for Stars 3 Naomi Hansen (Aus) M1 1 Kejval Lubos (Cze) VIG+Masters 1.56.00 2 Erik Goeleven (Bel) Team Moozes 3 Guy Lemmens (Bel) Team Moozes 4 Philipp Zenklusen (Swi) swisscrocs08 5 Daniel Wyss (Swi) swisscrocs08 6 Ermanno Piccaro (Ita) ASD Vigili del Fuoco-Latina-Cinelli-Corratec 7 Kristof Vanspauwen (Bel) Team Belgian Power 8 Peter Geldhof (Bel) teamNomaDesk.com 9 Stephens Reece (Aus) TKM / Slattery team 10 Issac Tonello (Aus) 11 Guido De Jong (Ned) 12 Gunter Selleslagh (Bel) 13 Bruno Verwee (Bel) 14 Mikkel Wichmann (Den) 15 Mario Vandeweghe (Bel) 16 Philip Smith (GBr) 17 Matt Powell (Aus) 18 Bert Apers (Bel) 19 Bart Vancayzeele (Bel) 20 Kris Hertsens (Bel) 21 Zdenek Kriz (Cze) VIG+Racing 1 M2 1 Eric Vanderaerden (Bel) Marc Herremans Foundation 1.56.00 2 Rudi Donckers (Bel) Marc Herremans Foundation 3 Jos Kerkhofs (Bel) Marc Herremans Foundation 4 Patrick Mijlemans (Bel) Team A.S.P.A 5 Ronny Potter (Bel) Team A.S.P.A 6 Ruedi Senn (Swi) swisscrocs08 7 Luc Gielen (Bel) Team Belgian Power 8 Patrick Van Gelder (Bel) Team Moozes 9 Jiri Kriz (Cze) VIG+Masters 10 Ladislav Drda (Cze) VIG+Masters 11 Marc Roggen (Bel) 12 Marc Withofs (Bel) 13 Georg Vinczencz (Aut) 14 Axel Strauss (Aut) 15 Thomas Sollich (Ger) Rockstar Racing 16 Darren O'Grady (Aus) Rockstar Racing Final classification Elite men 1 Ondrej Fojtik (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 38.13.38 2 Martin Horak (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 7.35 3 Tomas Trunschka (Cze) VIG+Racing 1 10.20 4 Craig Gordon (Aus) Rockstar Racing 25.27 5 Nicolas Vermeulen (Bel) 32.37 6 Ivan Rybarik (Cze) VIG+Racing 1 1.09.42 7 Tomas Kozak (Cze) Laser Steel Plzen 2.09.44 8 Robert Novotny (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 2.14.09 9 Christian Birngruber (Aut) 2.56.05 10 Benedikt De Vreese (Bel) Winter Vreese 3.01.37 11 Adrian Jackson (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 1 3.39.07 12 Nathan Dyke (Aus) TKM / Slattery team 3.40.31 13 Nick Both (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 1 3.54.39 14 Tim Bennett (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 1 4.11.34 15 Christophe Huybrighs (Bel) Team Ride for Stars 4.28.50 16 Gillis Van Loon (Bel) Team Ride for Stars 6.16.58 17 Karel De Winter (Bel) Winter Vreese 6.53.07 18 Steven Boury (Bel) 7.14.10 19 Raf De Bakker (Bel) 7.20.23 20 Petr Uhlik (Cze) 7.29.57 21 Stefaniak Wojciech (Pol) 8.18.37 22 Alfred Schabauer (Aut) 8.38.49 23 Tim Calkins (USA) TKM / Slattery team 9.39.05 24 Bart Decroubele (Bel) Team Belgian Power 13.00.21 Elite women 1 Karen Steurs (Bel) Team Ride for Stars 42.40.37 2 Joanne Bennett (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 2 27.42 3 Naomi Hansen (Aus) 4.43.09 M1 1 Kris Hertsens (Bel) 39.49.34 2 Stephens Reece (Aus) TKM / Slattery team 53.51 3 Zdenek Kriz (Cze) VIG+Racing 1 1.13.31 4 Daniel Wyss (Swi) swisscrocs08 1.21.20 5 Kejval Lubos (Cze) VIG+Masters 3.00.46 6 Issac Tonello (Aus) 3.17.07 7 Guido De Jong (Ned) 3.24.02 8 Philipp Zenklusen (Swi) swisscrocs08 4.30.06 9 Matt Powell (Aus) 5.02.04 10 Peter Geldhof (Bel) teamNomaDesk.com 5.25.31 11 Ermanno Piccaro (Ita) ASD Vigili del Fuoco-Latina-Cinelli-Corratec 8.56.45 12 Erik Goeleven (Bel) Team Moozes 9.30.07 13 Mikkel Wichmann (Den) 9.39.12 14 Guy Lemmens (Bel) Team Moozes 11.03.06 15 Gunter Selleslagh (Bel) 11.13.59 16 Kristof Vanspauwen (Bel) Team Belgian Power 12.08.56 17 Bart Vancayzeele (Bel) 13.11.08 18 Mario Vandeweghe (Bel) 16.34.02 19 Bert Apers (Bel) 18.51.27 20 Bruno Verwee (Bel) 22.08.50 21 Philip Smith (GBr) 24.07.56 M2 1 Axel Strauss (Aut) 41.27.51 2 Ladislav Drda (Cze) VIG+Masters 1.37.18 3 Jiri Kriz (Cze) VIG+Masters 2.05.02 4 Marc Roggen (Bel) 3.30.36 5 Darren O'Grady (Aus) Rockstar Racing 3.49.45 6 Ruedi Senn (Swi) swisscrocs08 4.09.31 7 Eric Vanderaerden (Bel) Marc Herremans Foundation 4.25.17 8 Jos Kerkhofs (Bel) Marc Herremans Foundation 7.35.38 9 Georg Vinczencz (Aut) 8.51.26 10 Thomas Sollich (Ger) Rockstar Racing 9.15.33 11 Luc Gielen (Bel) Team Belgian Power 12.12.49 12 Patrick Van Gelder (Bel) Team Moozes 14.10.54 13 Marc Withofs (Bel) 15.04.57 14 Patrick Mijlemans (Bel) Team A.S.P.A 18.48.52 15 Ronny Potter (Bel) Team A.S.P.A 20.22.50 16 Rudi Donckers (Bel) Marc Herremans Foundation 21.59.28