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14th Crocodile Trophy - NE
Australia, October 21-30, 2008
Stage 2 - October 22: Irvinebank - Koombooloomba, 128 km
Fojtik snatches race lead as Czech dream continues
By John Flynn in Koombooloomba
Czech cyclist Ondrej Fojtik is one step closer to achieving his dream of winning the Crocodile Trophy after snatching the leader's jersey from the shoulders of teammate Tomas Trunschka during today's second stage from Irvinebank to Koombooloomba Dam in Tropical North Queensland. For the second day in succession the Czech VIG+ Racing team put the hammer down in a determined effort to split the race apart. It was a tactic that brought the same reward as yesterday, a one-two-three podium finish for the Czechs, who are far exceeding pre-race expectations with a thoroughly dominant performance.
Fojtik and teammate Ivan Rybarik escaped from the lead bunch at the fifty-kilometre mark, despite the combined efforts of Australia's Merida Flight Centre Team, Belgian champion Nicolas Vermeulen and Rockstar Racing's Craig Gordon, who worked together to limit the damage. In the end Fojtik gifted the stage win to his teammate, who helped the two-time second place getter at Australia's outback classic into the race lead for the first time.
"For me this is my third time at the Crocodile Trophy and it is the first time I have taken the leader's jersey, so this is very special for me," Fojtik said. Rybarik was equally pleased with claiming his first stage victory at the Crocodile Trophy and the second successive stage win for his team, in what is, so far, a totally dominant performance.
"Yeah it was very good, I went with Ondrej around fifty kilometres and Ondrej said we will go until the finish," Rybarik said. "For me this is great and for the team this is perfect. In our country this race is very popular and I think in professional cycling it's very great when you can win this race overall and win two stages."
Again today, the other key protagonists of the Crocodile Trophy were left emotionally, if not physically exhausted as their latest plan to work together to unseat the dominant team at this year's race came unstuck. At least the weather has been kind to the riders with mild daytime temperatures and cool nights. It's the Czechs that are leaving the would-be contenders feeling dazed and confused.
Belgian marathon MTB Champion Nic Vermuelen appears to be running out of ideas, but is hoping tomorrow will be a different story as the race heads onto the famed "Powerline Track" for a stage of pure mountainbiking. "It was the same like yesterday today, the block of the Czech team, there are too many good riders," Vermeulen admitted. "Maybe I'm physically the best but they attack with two guys; I had gone after them, but it was too difficult."
Vermeulen was happy to receive support from the Australians on a day when the major objective for all the non-Czechs in the race was to limit the damages. That said, the outlook is bleak for the likes of Vermeulen, Gordon, Nick Both, Tim Bennett and Adrian Jackson in terms of any GC hopes they may have harboured.
Team VIG+ now occupies the top four places in the overall standings, with Vermeulen the nearest outsider, more than ten minutes off the pace. Gordon is the best placed of the Australians at 15:58 behind Fojtik and with tomorrow's profile suiting the technically skilled rider, it may be the best chance anyone has of gaining time on the seemingly unbeatable Czechs.
Steurs attacks Bennett in women's race
In the women's event Australia's Jo Bennett of the Merida Flight Centre team rode a sound tactical race. But the day belonged to Belgian Karen Steurs, who attacked Bennett in the final kilometres, to peg back just a handful of seconds from the Australian's lead of more than four minutes.
It could be that the Bennett, the former ironwoman, is saving something for tomorrow's stage on the powerline track, which could prove decisive. "I sort of wanted to take it a little easier, but it wasn't [possible] in the end," Bennett said. "Karen did a fantastic job today, just got away at the end, it was good, a fun day. But I still have the jersey, I'll try and hold onto it as much as I can."
Steurs is sure to have other ideas. The Belgian is gradually applying the pressure and could be timing her race assault to perfection, with the pivotal stage next-up. "In the final I tried to get away and tried to get some time back," Steurs said of today's tactic. "With five K I think I got away from her. "I like climbing, so we'll see tomorrow what happens."
Vanderaerden Loving It
Temptation was all around during today's second stage for Belgian cycling great Eric Vanderaerden as the race passed by more than a few outback watering holes. But the man who has shed twenty kilos to return to competition held steadfast against the lure of a cleansing ale, especially while the cameras were upon him.
Photographed passing by the pub in the Atherton Tableland Town of Herberton, the former winner of Paris-Roubaix had his eyes firmly fixed on the road ahead and his ultimate objective of finishing the Crocodile Trophy. It's a case of, to borrow Cadel Evans' favourite phrase, "so far, so good" for Vanderaerden, who was forced to abandon the Crocodile Trophy at his first attempt.
"Still at this moment for everything I want to do at the croc is OK ," an extremely relaxed Vanderaerden said as he lazed in the rainforested event campsite at Koombooloomba Dam. "I'm not in that good shape for having a good result, but it's good so far." "There are a lot of Belgian riders, but I'm riding with almost everybody, it's a nice experience."
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by John Flynn
Elite men 1 Ivan Rybarik (Cze) VIG+Racing 1 3.21.47 (31.82 km/h) 2 Ondrej Fojtik (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 0.01 3 Robert Novotny (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 6.02 4 Nicolas Vermeulen (Bel) 7.06 5 Nick Both (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 1 6 Craig Gordon (Aus) Rockstar Racing 7 Tim Bennett (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 1 8 Tomas Trunschka (Cze) VIG+Racing 1 9 Tomas Kozak (Cze) Laser Steel Plzen 10 Adrian Jackson (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 1 11 Christian Birngruber (Aut) 7.08 12 Martin Horak (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 7.19 13 Benedikt De Vreese (Bel) Winter Vreese 14.49 14 Nathan Dyke (Aus) TKM / Slattery team 25.07 15 Stefaniak Wojciech (Pol) 27.09 16 Tim Calkins (USA) TKM / Slattery team 27.16 17 Alfred Schabauer (Aut) 27.20 18 Steven Boury (Bel) 28.11 19 Christophe Huybrighs (Bel) Team Ride for Stars 28.30 20 Gillis Van Loon (Bel) Team Ride for Stars 30.11 21 Raf De Bakker (Bel) 32.54 22 Petr Uhlik (Cze) 41.38 23 Karel De Winter (Bel) Winter Vreese 43.35 24 Bart Decroubele (Bel) Team Belgian Power 55.45 25 Sean Noonan (USA) 1.18.00 Elite women 1 Karen Steurs (Bel) Team Ride for Stars 3.49.10 (28.01 km/h) 2 Joanne Bennett (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 2 0.47 3 Naomi Hansen (Aus) 28.23 M1 1 Stephens Reece (Aus) TKM / Slattery team 3.28.54 (30.73 km/h) 2 Guido De Jong (Ned) 6.38 3 Kris Hertsens (Bel) 9.03 4 Valentin Zeller (Aut) 9.05 5 Kejval Lubos (Cze) VIG+Masters 18.00 6 Zdenek Kriz (Cze) VIG+Racing 1 7 Daniel Wyss (Swi) swisscrocs08 20.05 8 Issac Tonello (Aus) 20.14 9 Philipp Zenklusen (Swi) swisscrocs08 23.12 10 Matt Powell (Aus) 25.47 11 Erik Goeleven (Bel) Team Moozes 34.33 12 Kristof Vanspauwen (Bel) Team Belgian Power 48.35 13 Guy Lemmens (Bel) Team Moozes 48.36 14 Bart Vancayzeele (Bel) 59.58 15 Peter Geldhof (Bel) teamNomaDesk.com 1.05.36 16 Mikkel Wichmann (Den) 1.07.34 17 Ermanno Piccaro (Ita) ASD Vigili del Fuoco-Latina-Cinelli-Corratec 18 Bert Apers (Bel) 1.19.53 19 Philip Smith (GBr) 1.37.47 20 Gunter Selleslagh (Bel) 1.38.21 21 Mario Vandeweghe (Bel) 1.39.26 22 Bruno Verwee (Bel) 2.15.13 M2 1 Axel Strauss (Aut) 3.49.03 (28.02 km/h) 2 Ladislav Drda (Cze) VIG+Masters 0.02 3 Ruedi Senn (Swi) swisscrocs08 3.03 4 Marc Roggen (Bel) 5.07 5 Darren O'Grady (Aus) Dream Team 8.49 6 Jiri Kriz (Cze) VIG+Masters 15.16 7 Beat Imhof (Swi) 25.55 8 Ewald Clavadetscher (Swi) 9 Luc Gielen (Bel) Team Belgian Power 28.29 10 Eric Vanderaerden (Bel) Marc Herremans Foundation 28.37 11 Marc Withofs (Bel) 46.10 12 Patrick Mijlemans (Bel) Team A.S.P.A 47.27 13 Georg Vinczencz (Aut) 50.43 14 Patrick Van Gelder (Bel) Team Moozes 1.02.51 15 Thomas Sollich (Ger) Dream Team 1.17.38 16 Ronny Potter (Bel) Team A.S.P.A 1.18.03 17 Jos Kerkhofs (Bel) Marc Herremans Foundation 1.18.09 18 Rudi Donckers (Bel) Marc Herremans Foundation 1.18.15 19 Jos Lenaerts (Bel) Team A.S.P.A 1.25.27 DNF Norbert A. Heinz (Ger) General classification after stage 2 1 Ondrej Fojtik (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 6.01.18 2 Tomas Trunschka (Cze) VIG+Racing 1 4.35 3 Martin Horak (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 7.26 4 Ivan Rybarik (Cze) VIG+Racing 1 8.11 5 Nicolas Vermeulen (Bel) 10.10 6 Craig Gordon (Aus) Rockstar Racing 15.58 7 Tomas Kozak (Cze) Laser Steel Plzen 16.34 8 Nick Both (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 1 19.02 9 Tim Bennett (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 1 10 Adrian Jackson (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 1 19.43 11 Christian Birngruber (Aut) 27.56 12 Robert Novotny (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 28.55 13 Benedikt De Vreese (Bel) Winter Vreese 44.29 14 Alfred Schabauer (Aut) 48.13 15 Tim Calkins (USA) TKM / Slattery team 53.26 16 Nathan Dyke (Aus) TKM / Slattery team 1.01.23 17 Stefaniak Wojciech (Pol) 1.05.14 18 Christophe Huybrighs (Bel) Team Ride for Stars 1.06.38 19 Gillis Van Loon (Bel) Team Ride for Stars 1.10.56 20 Raf De Bakker (Bel) 1.18.14 21 Petr Uhlik (Cze) 1.19.43 22 Steven Boury (Bel) 1.21.43 23 Karel De Winter (Bel) Winter Vreese 1.37.07 24 Bart Decroubele (Bel) Team Belgian Power 2.03.52 25 Sean Noonan (USA) 2.25.17 Elite women 1 Joanne Bennett (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 2 7.03.48 2 Karen Steurs (Bel) Team Ride for Stars 3.01 3 Naomi Hansen (Aus) 49.31 M1 1 Stephens Reece (Aus) TKM / Slattery team 6.29.11 2 Kris Hertsens (Bel) 3.33 3 Guido De Jong (Ned) 4.00 4 Valentin Zeller (Aut) 6.25 5 Kejval Lubos (Cze) VIG+Masters 18.07 6 Zdenek Kriz (Cze) VIG+Racing 1 7 Daniel Wyss (Swi) swisscrocs08 25.15 8 Issac Tonello (Aus) 31.01 9 Philipp Zenklusen (Swi) swisscrocs08 32.27 10 Matt Powell (Aus) 52.41 11 Erik Goeleven (Bel) Team Moozes 1.01.24 12 Bart Vancayzeele (Bel) 1.17.53 13 Kristof Vanspauwen (Bel) Team Belgian Power 1.35.56 14 Mikkel Wichmann (Den) 1.36.07 15 Guy Lemmens (Bel) Team Moozes 1.38.23 16 Peter Geldhof (Bel) teamNomaDesk.com 1.39.13 17 Ermanno Piccaro (Ita) ASD Vigili del Fuoco-Latina-Cinelli-Corratec 1.57.10 18 Bert Apers (Bel) 2.04.10 19 Gunter Selleslagh (Bel) 2.11.22 20 Philip Smith (GBr) 2.40.50 21 Mario Vandeweghe (Bel) 3.04.35 22 Bruno Verwee (Bel) 5.24.03 M2 1 Axel Strauss (Aut) 6.49.22 2 Ruedi Senn (Swi) swisscrocs08 12.16 3 Ladislav Drda (Cze) VIG+Masters 12.40 4 Marc Roggen (Bel) 24.25 5 Jiri Kriz (Cze) VIG+Masters 30.44 6 Beat Imhof (Swi) 36.40 7 Darren O'Grady (Aus) Dream Team 41.55 8 Ewald Clavadetscher (Swi) 45.13 9 Eric Vanderaerden (Bel) Marc Herremans Foundation 59.52 10 Luc Gielen (Bel) Team Belgian Power 1.00.08 11 Marc Withofs (Bel) 1.18.54 12 Georg Vinczencz (Aut) 1.30.11 13 Patrick Mijlemans (Bel) Team A.S.P.A 1.31.41 14 Jos Kerkhofs (Bel) Marc Herremans Foundation 1.42.00 15 Thomas Sollich (Ger) Dream Team 2.20.14 16 Ronny Potter (Bel) Team A.S.P.A 2.20.20 17 Patrick Van Gelder (Bel) Team Moozes 2.30.48 18 Rudi Donckers (Bel) Marc Herremans Foundation 2.33.43 19 Jos Lenaerts (Bel) Team A.S.P.A 2.48.19