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14th Crocodile Trophy - NE
Australia, October 21-30, 2008
Stage 9 - October 29: Cooktown - Ayton, 128 km
Fojtik stage win all but seals overall
Czech's dream to come true when riders reach Cape Tribulation
By John Flynn in Ayton
Czech cyclist Ondrej Fojtik effectively achieved his life's dream today, winning the Crocodile Trophy in the most emphatic fashion possible, with a victory in the penultimate stage from Cooktown to Ayton on the edge of Australia's world heritage listed Daintree Rainforest. Under siege from VIG+ Racing teammate Martin Horak who attacked again today as the race ventured past the famous "Lions Den Hotel" near Cooktown, Fojtik was forced to prove once and for all that he was the best rider of the 2008 Outback Classic.
The backdrop for the contest could not have been more captivating. The 124-kilometre journey with 1900 metres of elevation included steep mountain climbs, technical descents and even crocodile inhabited river crossings.
In second place on the general classification heading into today's stage, five minutes behind Fojtik, Horak won no friends within his Czech team that rallied to support the race leader in his great moment of need. Tomorrow's final stage to the rainforest-fringed beach at Cape Tribulation will not be timed, meaning the leader on GC after today only needs to finish tomorrow to win the race. Nicknamed "The Ivanator" by his rivals, Czech strongman Ivan Rybarik pulled huge turns to reel in his renegade teammate Horak, assisted also by Tomas Trunschka and Fojtik himself, who had more reason than anyone to chase down the move.
At one stage Horak's lead stretched to more than two minutes, but the combined efforts of Trunschka, Rybarik and Fojtik saw the margin reduced greatly by the time the leaders reached the second feed zone. When the moment of truth came as the race ventured upward on a 20% gradient to the legendary CREB Track, Fojtik lifted to another level. The Czech, who had twice finished second at the Crocodile Trophy in 2004 and 2007, decided it was time to stamp his authority on the race and earn his own rightful place on the list of Crocodile Trophy Champions.
"I am happy that I won the stage and get the boomerang [awarded to the stage winner] because I think it was the most difficult stage of the Crocodile and for me it's great satisfaction," Fojtik said. "It was most important that I had Ivan and Tomas Trunschka to help today and I thank them so much, for me their help was the real highlight."
The day wasn't so kind for third-placed Belgian Nic Vermeulen, who exploded on one of the steeper climbs as the race ventured onto the technically challenging "Zig-Zag Track", which took riders over a spectacular river crossing at the Roaring Meg. Vermeulen's loss was the gain of Australia's Craig Gordon, who, provided he crossed the finish line in Cape Tribulation tomorrow, will end his race in fourth place on the general classification.
"That was an awesome day, loved it," Gordon said. "It was quite tactical, one of the Czech guys [Horak] went off the front, Ondrej and a few other guys were working to pull him back. We caught him [Horak] before the first big climb. Nicolas, on one of the pinches, he just blew and as soon as he dropped off the back, Ondrej just threw it in the gutter and he was gone."
Just as he did last year, Fojtik rode solo to the finish line to win the epic Cooktown-Ayton stage of the Crocodile Trophy, but not only that, this time the polite Czech lived up to the promise he made last year in the village of Ayton, when he said "I will come back to win this great race."
Again, it was an all-Czech podium result today as Fojtik was joined by VIG+ racing teammates Trunschka in second place and Horak third.
Steurs puts foot to the floor
In the women's event Belgian Karen Steurs (Ride For The Stars) put her foot to the floor today, despite already being 15 minutes ahead of Australia's Joanne Bennett going into the stage. Retiring at the end of the race, Steurs was comfortable in the knowl-edge, the pain experienced during her past six years on the road is almost over.
"The beginning was easy in the group, then it became hilly and I found my own tempo, went great," Steurs said. "Last time of suffering. Six years I have been cycling and now, the end." Steurs brought back memories of another of the Crocodile Trophy's winners, Christophe Stevens, by declaring her immediate retirement when the race reaches Cape Tribulation tomorrow.
"I am only biking for fun now, this is very satisfying." There was also jubilation at the back end of the race as five Belgian bikers, Bert Apers, Gunter Selleslagh, Rudi Donckers, Bart Vancayzeele and Patrick Mijlemans crossed the finish line together in last place after spending more than nine hours suffering on course.
Watching his time piece closely was British cyclist Phil Smith (actually an Australian resident but nonetheless claiming ultimate underdog status), who retains a firm grip on last place in the GC with a margin of more than thirty minutes.
The local rider from the Tropical capital of Cairns, who trained hard to meet his objective of finishing the Crocodile Trophy now has only one major mountain range between himself and his ultimate goal - the beach at Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef. "There's still 40k's to go and there's still some gnarly hills along the way and for me it's not over until we get to the beach, we still have to get over these hills. It's been a year of training specifically for the race, just to finish it. Great ride, I've really enjoyed."
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by John Flynn
Elite men 1 Ondrej Fojtik (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 4.15.55 (29.07 km/h) 2 Tomas Trunschka (Cze) VIG+Racing 1 2.24 3 Martin Horak (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 4 Craig Gordon (Aus) Rockstar Racing 5 Nicolas Vermeulen (Bel) 15.41 6 Robert Novotny (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 17.28 7 Christian Birngruber (Aut) 17.53 8 Benedikt De Vreese (Bel) Winter Vreese 26.38 9 Tomas Kozak (Cze) Laser Steel Plzen 27.17 10 Nathan Dyke (Aus) TKM / Slattery team 32.54 11 Ivan Rybarik (Cze) VIG+Racing 1 32.55 12 Raf De Bakker (Bel) 41.15 13 Petr Uhlik (Cze) 41.16 14 Christophe Huybrighs (Bel) Team Ride for Stars 41.22 15 Karel De Winter (Bel) Winter Vreese 54.42 16 Nick Both (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 1 59.55 17 Adrian Jackson (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 1 18 Tim Bennett (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 1 19 Steven Boury (Bel) 1.04.30 20 Gillis Van Loon (Bel) Team Ride for Stars 1.35.21 21 Tim Calkins (USA) TKM / Slattery team 1.41.46 22 Stefaniak Wojciech (Pol) 1.43.10 23 Bart Decroubele (Bel) Team Belgian Power 2.27.35 24 Alfred Schabauer (Aut) 3.56.47 Elite women 1 Karen Steurs (Bel) Team Ride for Stars 4.57.14 (25.03 km/h) 2 Joanne Bennett (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 2 18.37 3 Naomi Hansen (Aus) 57.30 M1 1 Daniel Wyss (Swi) swisscrocs08 4.36.22 (26.92 km/h) 2 Kris Hertsens (Bel) 6.09 3 Stephens Reece (Aus) TKM / Slattery team 6.11 4 Issac Tonello (Aus) 8.36 5 Zdenek Kriz (Cze) VIG+Racing 1 11.02 6 Guido De Jong (Ned) 14.39 7 Philipp Zenklusen (Swi) swisscrocs08 17.51 8 Matt Powell (Aus) 43.21 9 Peter Geldhof (Bel) teamNomaDesk.com 44.03 10 Kejval Lubos (Cze) VIG+Masters 1.02.58 11 Mikkel Wichmann (Den) 1.18.21 12 Ermanno Piccaro (Ita) ASD Vigili del Fuoco-Latina-Cinelli-Corratec 1.26.25 13 Guy Lemmens (Bel) Team Moozes 1.49.29 14 Erik Goeleven (Bel) Team Moozes 15 Kristof Vanspauwen (Bel) Team Belgian Power 2.07.08 16 Mario Vandeweghe (Bel) 2.11.30 17 Bruno Verwee (Bel) 2.50.47 18 Philip Smith (GBr) 3.10.11 19 Bart Vancayzeele (Bel) 4.31.06 20 Gunter Selleslagh (Bel) 21 Bert Apers (Bel) M2 1 Axel Strauss (Aut) 4.47.24 (25.89 km/h) 2 Darren O'Grady (Aus) Rockstar Racing 6.49 3 Ruedi Senn (Swi) swisscrocs08 17.43 4 Ladislav Drda (Cze) VIG+Masters 17.44 5 Jiri Kriz (Cze) VIG+Masters 28.27 6 Marc Roggen (Bel) 51.56 7 Eric Vanderaerden (Bel) Marc Herremans Foundation 57.38 8 Jos Kerkhofs (Bel) Marc Herremans Foundation 1.01.47 9 Georg Vinczencz (Aut) 1.19.36 10 Thomas Sollich (Ger) Rockstar Racing 1.35.11 11 Patrick Van Gelder (Bel) Team Moozes 1.38.27 12 Luc Gielen (Bel) Team Belgian Power 1.56.06 13 Marc Withofs (Bel) 2.00.48 14 Ronny Potter (Bel) Team A.S.P.A 3.38.26 15 Patrick Mijlemans (Bel) Team A.S.P.A 4.20.04 16 Rudi Donckers (Bel) Marc Herremans Foundation General classification after stage 9 Elite men 1 Ondrej Fojtik (Cze) VIG+Racing Team 2 36.17.38 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 40.44.37 2 Joanne Bennett (Aus) Merida - Flight Centre 2 27.42 3 Naomi Hansen (Aus) 4.43.09 M1 1 Kris Hertsens (Bel) 37.53.34 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) 39.31.51 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