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14th Crocodile Trophy - NE
Australia, October 21-30, 2008
Stage 8 - October 28: Laura - Cooktown, 142 km
Dream days for Fojtik and Gordon as Crocodile Trophy reaches Cooktown
By John Flynn in Cooktown
The life's dream of Czech cylist Ondrej Fojtik – to win the Crocodile Trophy – is now clearly within reach after today's dramatic "Queen Stage" of Australia's Outback Classic from the spiritual Quinkan Country of Laura, to the historical coastal port of Cooktown in Tropical North Queensland.
Fojtik reached the crest of Cooktown's Grassy Hill in second place, after sharing the effort over the final kilometres with Australia's Craig Gordon, who emerged as a deserving stage winner on a day of high drama at the summit of one of the world's most spectacular hilltop finishes.
Gordon managed to join Fojtik twenty kilometres from the finish of today's stage, just as the Czech's long distance breakaway with Belgian Nic Vermeulen was about to be reeled in.
At that point Fojtik's Czech team-mates decided to relax, leaving it to a fresher Gordon and a tiring Fojtik to fight it out for the stage win.
A shattered Vermeulen, who did more than his share of the work to make the long distance breakaway succeed, had nothing left to give in the final kilometer, and struggled dejected to a sixth place finish.
The scenario proved beneficial to both riders, with Fojtik extending G.C. lead over second-placed Horak to more than five minutes and Gordon, the former world 24-hour solo champion, gaining the gravitas that go with the Crocodile Trophy's most sought after stage victory.
"Oh just very, very lucky, those Czech guys are just so strong, they just got on the front and did a lot of work," Gordon said after what could be described as opportunistic, but nonetheless ethical stage win. "I did a little bit of work, but nowhere near as much as the Czech guys did."
Embroiled in what appeared to be a heated contest for the general classification with his renegade team-mate Martin Horak, who attacked repeatedly today in a desperate attempt to steal the race lead, Fojtik proved he was the stronger man – and the one most worthy from the stable of VIG+ cyclists of wearing the race leader's jersey.
As he peered south from atop Grassy Hill, the same place British navigator James Cook surveyed a passage through the Great Barrier Reef for his stricken ship, The Endeavour, in 1770, Fojtik could almost see his ultimate prize on the far horizon.
"I hope that I will be winner tomorrow and I think that this stage was for me and Martin the most important," Fojtik said. "I hope he will not attack tomorrow and the race is closed."
As soon as he reached the race campsite post-stage, an excited Fojtik phoned his wife in the Czech Republic, who is due to give birth to their first child in January.
With the G.C. lead at more than five minutes, even the best attacking efforts of the renegade Horak probably won't be enough to peg back the margin on tomorrow's stage to the Daintree, which Fojtik won in 2007.
As per the tradition of the Crocodile Trophy, the General Classification for riders will be decided at the end of stage nine. On the final day, the protagonists ride together into Cape Tribulation on a stage that is not timed, but ends in a sprint finish on a rainforest fringed beach.
If Fojtik holds on tomorrow, he will win the Australia's Outback Classic.
"It was my big dream a few years before to win the Crocodile Trophy," Fojtik said. "And I hope tomorrow it will be come true."
Steurs surges to race lead
In the women's race, Belgian Karen Steurs (Race For The Stars) produced her greatest effort of the Crocodile Trophy so-far to not only peg back the race lead of Australia's Jo Bennett (Merida Flight Centre), but give herself what looks to be a winning margin. Steurs reached the top of Grassy Hill almost twenty minutes in front of Bennett, giving herself the race lead by a staggering advantage of more than fifteen minutes.
Steurs made her move when the race reached the rolling hills of Lakefield National Park, and ably supported by a posse of Belgians, inflicted serious damage on the Merida Flight Centre' team's hopes of winning the Crocodile Trophy for women.
I had a good day today, I went for it," Steurs said. "When it became hilly yeah, she lost time and then we go, and we go, and we go and we have created a big time difference."
"We shall see tomorrow if I can hold it."
Physically spent, but still holding it together mentally at the end of today's stage, Bennett didn't appear impressed with the Belgian tactics, but remained measured with her words.
"I found that a bit tougher today," Bennett admitted. "Karen and her husband attacked through the first feed zone so we were all chasing back on, they went straight through and didn't grab any drinks. At the river crossing I got a bit stuck and the climb out of that, I just felt it in the legs today.
"It was tough, Karen did a good job today. I'll recover as well as I can tonight and tomorrow I'll give it everything, hopefully I'll make a little bit of time up through the mountainbike sections."
Uncle Tommy says farewell
Before the stage this morning, there was a special treat for the riders, when Aboriginal Elder and Traditional Owner of the Laura region, Uncle Tommy George, farewelled the peloton and fired the starter's gun. Laura is a deeply spiritual part of Australia and is famous the world over for its Aboriginal rock art galleries. The hills surrounding Laura are the spiritual home of the mythical Quinkans, creatures that come down from the mountains during the night time.
Every second year Laura hosts a dance festival where the Aboriginal people of Cape York gather for a corroboree featuring the world's best exponents of the "shake-a-leg" dance.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by John Flynn / Crocodile Trophy
1 Craig Gordon (Aus) Rockstar Racing 4.56.33 (28.73km/h) 2 Ondrej Fojtik (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 0.02 3 Tomas Trunschka (Cze) VIG+Racing 1 3.42 4 Ivan Rybarik (Cze) VIG+Racing 1 4.12 5 Martin Horak (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 4.22 6 Nicolas Vermeulen (Bel) 6.03 7 Christian Birngruber (Aut) 16.48 8 Tomas Kozak (Cze) Laser Steel Plzen 23.07 9 Robert Novotny (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 23.10 10 Petr Uhlik (Cze) 24.55 11 Nathan Dyke (Aus) TKM / Slattery team 25.37 12 Christophe Huybrighs (Bel) Team Ride for Stars 26.13 13 Benedikt De Vreese (Bel) Winter Vreese 26.15 14 Gillis Van Loon (Bel) Team Ride for Stars 27.53 15 Steven Boury (Bel) 34.38 16 Nick Both (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 1 37.53 17 Adrian Jackson (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 1 38.10 18 Karel De Winter (Bel) Winter Vreese 39.06 19 Tim Bennett (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 1 40.08 20 Alfred Schabauer (Aut) 52.28 21 Stefaniak Wojciech (Pol) 1.17.21 22 Raf De Bakker (Bel) 1.18.56 23 Tim Calkins (USA) TKM / Slattery team 1.21.59 24 Bart Decroubele (Bel) Team Belgian Power 1.55.24 DNF Sean Noonan (USA) Elite Women 1 Karen Steurs (Bel) Team Ride for Stars 5.22.43 (26.4km/h) 2 Joanne Bennett (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 2 14.17 3 Naomi Hansen (Aus) 54.17 M1 1 Daniel Wyss (Swi) swisscrocs08 5.11.04 (27.39km/h) 2 Stephens Reece (Aus) TKM / Slattery team 1.04 3 Kris Hertsens (Bel) TeamNomaDesk.com 2.24 4 Issac Tonello (Aus) 10.12 5 Guido De Jong (Ned) 10.33 6 Zdenek Kriz (Cze) VIG+Racing 1 10.49 7 Lubos Kejval (Cze) VIG+Masters 11.55 8 Peter Geldhof (Bel) teamNomaDesk.com 12.14 9 Philipp Zenklusen (Swi) swisscrocs08 24.02 10 Matt Powell (Aus) 40.03 11 Ermanno Piccaro (Ita) ASD Vigili del Fuoco-Latina-Cinelli-Corratec 50.37 12 Gunter Selleslagh (Bel) 1.06.55 13 Guy Lemmens (Bel) Team Moozes 1.07.42 14 Mikkel Wichmann (Den) 1.32.29 15 Kristof Vanspauwen (Bel) Team Belgian Power 1.40.55 16 Erik Goeleven (Bel) Team Moozes 1.47.48 17 Mario Vandeweghe (Bel) 2.17.14 18 Philip Smith (GBr) 2.51.09 19 Bruno Verwee (Bel) 2.56.36 20 Bert Apers (Bel) 21 Bart Vancayzeele (Bel) DNF Valentin Zeller (Aut) M2 1 Axel Strauss (Aut) 5.21.02 (26.54km/h) 2 Ladislav Drda (Cze) VIG+Masters 1.26 3 Jiri Kriz (Cze) VIG+Masters 3.12 4 Ruedi Senn (Swi) swisscrocs08 13.50 5 Marc Roggen (Bel) 16.02 6 Jos Kerkhofs (Bel) Marc Herremans Foundation 17.15 7 Eric Vanderaerden (Bel) Marc Herremans Foundation 30.02 8 Thomas Sollich (Ger) Rockstar Racing 54.27 9 Darren O'Grady (Aus) Rockstar Racing 56.18 10 Georg Vinczencz (Aut) 1.11.04 11 Luc Gielen (Bel) Team Belgian Power 1.30.54 12 Patrick Van Gelder (Bel) Team Moozes 2.12.05 13 Marc Withofs (Bel) 2.46.38 14 Ronny Potter (Bel) Team A.S.P.A 15 Patrick Mijlemans (Bel) Team A.S.P.A 16 Rudi Donckers (Bel) Marc Herremans Foundation DNF Jos Lenaerts (Bel) Team A.S.P.A DNF Beat Imhof (Swi) DNF Norbert A. Heinz (BRd) DNF Ewald Clavadetscher (Swi) General classification after stage 8 Elite Men 1 Ondrej Fojtik (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 32.01.53 2 Martin Horak (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 5.03 3 Tomas Trunschka (Cze) VIG+Racing 1 7.51 4 Nicolas Vermeulen (Bel) 16.46 5 Craig Gordon (Aus) Rockstar Racing 22.53 6 Ivan Rybarik (Cze) VIG+Racing 1 36.37 7 Tomas Kozak (Cze) Laser Steel Plzen 1.42.17 8 Robert Novotny (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 1.56.31 9 Benedikt De Vreese (Bel) Winter Vreese 2.34.49 10 Christian Birngruber (Aut) 2.38.02 11 Adrian Jackson (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 1 2.39.02 12 Nick Both (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 1 2.54.34 13 Nathan Dyke (Aus) TKM / Slattery team 3.07.27 14 Tim Bennett (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 1 3.11.29 15 Christophe Huybrighs (Bel) Team Ride for Stars 3.47.18 16 Gillis Van Loon (Bel) Team Ride for Stars 4.41.27 17 Alfred Schabauer (Aut) 4.41.52 18 Karel De Winter (Bel) Winter Vreese 5.58.15 19 Steven Boury (Bel) 6.09.30 20 Stefaniak Wojciech (Pol) 6.35.17 21 Raf De Bakker (Bel) 6.38.58 22 Petr Uhlik (Cze) 6.48.31 23 Tim Calkins (USA) TKM / Slattery team 7.57.09 24 Bart Decroubele (Bel) Team Belgian Power 10.32.36 25 Sean Noonan (USA) Elite Women 1 Karen Steurs (Bel) Team Ride for Stars 35.47.23 2 Joanne Bennett (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 2 9.05 3 Naomi Hansen (Aus) 3.45.39 M1 1 Kris Hertsens (Bel) TeamNomaDesk.com 33.11.03 2 Stephens Reece (Aus) TKM / Slattery team 53.49 3 Zdenek Kriz (Cze) VIG+Racing 1 1.08.38 4 Daniel Wyss (Swi) swisscrocs08 1.27.29 5 Lubos Kejval (Cze) VIG+Masters 2.03.57 6 Issac Tonello (Aus) 3.14.40 7 Guido De Jong (Ned) 3.15.32 8 Philipp Zenklusen (Swi) swisscrocs08 4.18.24 9 Matt Powell (Aus) 4.24.52 10 Peter Geldhof (Bel) teamNomaDesk.com 4.47.37 11 Gunter Selleslagh (Bel) 6.49.02 12 Ermanno Piccaro (Ita) ASD Vigili del Fuoco-Latina-Cinelli-Corratec 7.36.29 13 Erik Goeleven (Bel) Team Moozes 7.46.47 14 Mikkel Wichmann (Den) 8.27.00 15 Bart Vancayzeele (Bel) 8.46.11 16 Guy Lemmens (Bel) Team Moozes 9.19.46 17 Kristof Vanspauwen (Bel) Team Belgian Power 10.07.57 18 Bert Apers (Bel) 14.26.30 19 Mario Vandeweghe (Bel) 14.28.41 20 Bruno Verwee (Bel) 19.24.12 21 Philip Smith (GBr) 21.03.54 22 Valentin Zeller (Aut) M2 1 Axel Strauss (Aut) 34.44.27 2 Ladislav Drda (Cze) VIG+Masters 1.19.34 3 Jiri Kriz (Cze) VIG+Masters 1.36.35 4 Marc Roggen (Bel) 2.38.40 5 Eric Vanderaerden (Bel) Marc Herremans Foundation 3.27.39 6 Darren O'Grady (Aus) Rockstar Racing 3.42.56 7 Ruedi Senn (Swi) swisscrocs08 3.51.48 8 Jos Kerkhofs (Bel) Marc Herremans Foundation 6.33.51 9 Georg Vinczencz (Aut) 7.31.50 10 Thomas Sollich (Ger) Rockstar Racing 7.40.22 11 Luc Gielen (Bel) Team Belgian Power 10.16.43 12 Patrick Van Gelder (Bel) Team Moozes 12.32.27 13 Marc Withofs (Bel) 13.04.09 14 Patrick Mijlemans (Bel) Team A.S.P.A 14.28.48 15 Ronny Potter (Bel) Team A.S.P.A 16.44.24 16 Rudi Donckers (Bel) Marc Herremans Foundation 17.39.24 17 Jos Lenaerts (Bel) Team A.S.P.A 18 Beat Imhof (Swi) 19 Norbert A. Heinz (BRd) 20 Ewald Clavadetscher (Swi)