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10th Crocodile Trophy - NE
Australia, October 16-31, 2004
Stage 7 - October 24: Hell's Gate - Burketown, 177 km
Elli wins in sprint finish
Aussie Hansen extends his lead
By John-Michael Flynn in Burketown
Wearing the yellow Team Telekom gloves he retained as a souvenir from the Tour de France of 2000, Italian Alberto Elli showed the cunning and experience of a life long professional as he claimed today's seventh stage of the Crocodile Trophy Mountain bike Race in a dramatic sprint finish.
At the end of a 177km stage across one of the more desolate parts of Australia's Gulf of Carpentaria, it came down to the usual suspects, Elli (Gatorade Dream Team) and his Australian rival Adam Hansen (Cairns Coconut Caravan Resort) in a desperate dash for the line. Unlike the explorers Burke and Wills, the first Europeans to visit the area in 1861 who later perished, never to be seen again, Elli and Hansen emerged from their outback ordeal to show strong legs, despite one of the toughest days of the Crocodile Trophy so far.
The road between Hell's Gate where the stage began and Burketown where it ended was littered with deep bulldust holes, impossible to ride in places and incredibly draining on the legs. The earlier pummeling didn't seem to bother Elli though as he dragged Hansen to the far right hand side of the finishing straight, then forced him hard to the left without altering his line, winning the sprint finish fair and square.
"World champion...today was like...the finish today was like the world championships," an emotional Elli said after the supercharged race finish.
The Italian, who today claimed his second stage at the Crocodile Trophy of 2004, teaching his younger rival a lesson. "When you are stronger and you have no tactics, you lose; you need to use your head all the time in biking."
Hansen admitted he still has much to learn, but refused to concede Elli is the better sprinter. "I know I can sprint better than him and that's why I wanted the sprint, but if I'd known he would have boxed me in into the wind, I would have gone a lot earlier."
Confusion and bulldust on Outback roads
As expected Elli attacked early on today's stage. His initial move creating a breakaway of four riders including Hansen, Czech Sibl Radoslav and Elli's Gatorade team-mate Marzio Deho. With Deho officially out of contention for the General Classification after missing two stages due to injury, rules stipulated he was not allowed to assist his Italian countryman by driving the group of riders at the front.
While there were unsubstantiated claims Deho did just that, the rider who stood to lose most from such tactics, Radoslav, claimed there was no foul play. "Alberto and Adam and me are the only people," (who rode at the front) an exhausted Sibl said at stage end.
The Czech, who was dropped at the one hundred kilometre mark finishing a credible third in today's stage. "I was hoping to go with Adam and Elli but it wasn't a possibility because they are very too fast," he said.
Elli, Hansen and Deho stayed together until the final 20 kilometres, when Deho left the pair under instructions from team manager Anderson, to race it out between themselves for the finish. The Gatorade Team Manager angered by the cheating claims. "We did everything right out there today,"Anderson said.
With Deho up the road and out of contention, Hansen then tried several attacks, but decided to hang in with fifteen kilometres to go and wait for Elli to make a move. All the while Hansen knew his overall race lead was extending, with his main challengers in the chasing pack, well off the pace.
"Yeah he's helping me (Elli) I think he's trying to get as much time on the others," Hansen said. "He's hoping that I'll break and he'll take advantage of that. "
The Australian continued the psychological warfare with his Italian rival, the race now at the midway point. "I'm not going to crack, not out here, no," Hansen said. "The stages are too long and all my training's set on long days, I'm definitely not going to break on long days."
Sand Blasting Back in the main bunch, the conditions were wreaking havoc on riders and bikes. The dirt roads in North Western Queensland, which are poorly serviced and spend much of the 'wet season' covered in flood water, were falling apart in many places, Large patches of soft dirt known as 'bull dust' were common along today's parcours, eating into the drive trains of bikes and causing numerous 'offs' in the main peloton.
Jovial American Lars Erik Johnson, described his long day at the office. "Just desolate country on the way into Burketown, are you kidding me," said Johnson. "That was crazy. There was nothing out there and the bulldust holes! A guy went sideways in front of me and it was either stack right into him or try to get around him. I tried to get around him and my knee jerk reaction threw me off the bike and I was in the dust and then somebody ran over me."
Stage five winner Austrian Robert Hotter also had a 'bull dust' story to tell at the Burketown Pub. "We had it last year, but it was very long today," said Hotter. "It makes the chain completely not working anymore. Anyway we did it. As they say it's the world's toughest race, you have to ride."
Mountain bike specialist Gerhard Gulewicz was another to suffer the leg sapping effects of trying to ride through soft sand. The Austrian finished strongly again today but hoping he didn't meet any more patches of bulldust in up-coming stages. "Once I had a problem - I was going in the bulldust and then I could not go out," Gulewicz said. "I lifted my bike...I had to get off the bike and walk 100 metres."
Aussies still strong
With Australian Adam Hansen extending his lead today in the General Classification, there was even better news when his two teammates from the Cairns Coconut Caravan Resort team, Dave Woods and James grant both finished strongly. Grant, who crossed the line with a group of five riders, finally admitted that the gruelling Crocodile Trophy is taking its toll. "I think I'm just starting to feel it today, this is by far the hardest day today," Grant said.
The rider who's been as solid as a rock for the team which leads the Crocodile Trophy is looking forward to taking it easier over the next two days with a short time trial tomorrow and a rest/travel day on Tuesday. "I had no excuse to give up, that was the hardest thing, I needed to fall over and stack or a break or flat tyre or something I was just hoping for anything, any excuse because I couldn't get one."
In a controversial post-script to stage seven of the Crocodile Trophy, there was some bad news for the Gatorade Team. After viewing video tape from the stage, which appeared inconclusive, race director Gerhard Schonbacher nonetheless decided to eliminate Gatorade Riders Marzio Deho and Jurgen Van de Walle from tomorrow's start list.
Deho, who was accused of assisting Elli with today's stage victory and Van de Walle had both returned to the event after missing stages due to heatstroke and injury. In the turbulent atmosphere of this year's event, it remains possible this decision could change before daybreak.
The controversial Crocodile Trophy saga continues...
Images by Mark Watson/mwphotography.com.au
1 Alberto Elli (Ita) Gatorade Dream Team 1 5.43.46 2 Adam Hansen (Aus) Cairns Coconut Caravan Resort 0.01 3 Ondrej Fojtik (Cze) 21.54 4 Martin Kiechle (Ger) 21.55 5 Sibl Radoslav (Cze) Team Sport Nora 31.55 6 James Grant (Aus) Cairns Coconut Caravan Resort 35.39 6 Robert Hotter (Aut) Team Sport Nora 6 Gerhard Gulewicz (Aut) bikestation-salinenimmobiloen.com 6 Adam Socha (Aus) 10 Thomas Moderbacher (Aut) skinfit TEAM AUSTRIA 42.47 11 Mario Amann (Aut) Baustoff + Metall 1 1.00.52 12 Andrew Wegener (Aus) 13 Perry Moerman (Bel) Gatorade Dream Team 2 1.02.13 14 David Woods (Aus) Cairns Coconut Caravan Resort 1.03.36 14 Salvatore Paolo Albano (Ita) Pedale Tarvisiano 14 Lars Erik Johnson (USA) Gatorade Dream Team 2 14 Andreas Dünn (Ger) Baier-Qantas-German A. 14 Tilo Koch (Ger) 19 Peter Dammerer (Aut) Team Hervis NÖ 1 1.18.43 20 Anita Waiß (Aut) skinfit TEAM AUSTRIA 2.08.44 21 Anita Waiß (Aut) skinfit TEAM AUSTRIA 22 Willi Wagner (Aut) Team Hervis NÖ 1 23 Loris Macor (Ita) Pedale Tarvisiano 2.10.30 24 Giancarlo Schoemberg (Ita) Pedale Tarvisiano 2.10.34 25 Peter Raymann (Aut) Team Hervis NÖ 2 2.17.44 26 Toru Watanabe (Jpn) Team Sport Nora 2.18.49 27 Stephan Adelsmayr (Aut) Drahteselklinik 2.33.46 28 Hans Weber (Aut) Team Fluxus 2.41.00 Women 1 Anita Waiß (Aut) skinfit TEAM AUSTRIA 7.52.30 General Classification after stage 7 1 Adam Hansen (Aus) Cairns Coconut Caravan Resort 35.35.08 2 Ondrej Fojtik (Cze) 59.36 3 Alberto Elli (Ita) Gatorade Dream Team 1 1.18.24 4 Martin Kiechle (Ger) 1.40.30 5 Sibl Radoslav (Cze) Team Sport Nora 1.55.43 6 Robert Hotter (Aut) Team Sport Nora 3.48.04 7 Gerhard Gulewicz (Aut) bikestation-salinenimmobiloen.com 3.48.56 8 Andreas Dünn (Ger) Baier-Qantas-German A. 4.19.05 9 Tilo Koch (Ger) 4.26.09 10 James Grant (Aus) Cairns Coconut Caravan Resort 4.57.10 11 Andrew Wegener (Aus) 5.50.46 12 David Woods (Aus) Cairns Coconut Caravan Resort 5.55.31 13 Adam Socha (Aus) 6.01.07 14 Thomas Moderbacher (Aut) skinfit TEAM AUSTRIA 6.53.14 15 Salvatore Paolo Albano (Ita) Pedale Tarvisiano 7.13.14 16 Mario Amann (Aut) Baustoff + Metall 1 7.46.55 17 Peter Dammerer (Aut) Team Hervis NÖ 1 7.59.35 18 Lars Erik Johnson (USA) Gatorade Dream Team 2 8.12.49 19 Willi Wagner (Aut) Team Hervis NÖ 1 8.52.43 20 Perry Moerman (Bel) Gatorade Dream Team 2 10.00.42 21 Loris Macor (Ita) Pedale Tarvisiano 11.26.13 22 Anita Waiß (Aut) skinfit TEAM AUSTRIA 11.40.52 23 Andreas Mühlbacher (Aut) skinfit TEAM AUSTRIA 13.28.05 24 Hans Weber (Aut) Team Fluxus 13.33.59 25 Peter Raymann (Aut) Team Hervis NÖ 2 14.45.45 26 Giancarlo Schoemberg (Ita) Pedale Tarvisiano 14.47.42 27 Toru Watanabe (Jpn) Team Sport Nora 15.01.01 28 Stephan Adelsmayr (Aut) Drahteselklinik 16.58.11 Women's Classification 1 Anita Waiß (Aut) skinfit TEAM AUSTRIA 47.16.00 Over 40 Classification 1 Alberto Elli (Ita) Gatorade Dream Team 1 36.53.32 2 Salvatore Paolo Albano (Ita) Pedale Tarvisiano 5.54.50 3 Willi Wagner (Aut) Team Hervis NÖ 1 7.34.19 4 Perry Moerman (Bel) Gatorade Dream Team 2 8.42.18 5 Peter Raymann (Aut) Team Hervis NÖ 2 13.27.21 6 Giancarlo Schoemberg (Ita) Pedale Tarvisiano 13.29.18 7 Stephan Adelsmayr (Aut) Drahteselklinik 15.39.47 Points Classification 1 Adam Hansen (Aus) Cairns Coconut Caravan Resort 95 pts 2 Alberto Elli (Ita) Gatorade Dream Team 1 70 3 Ondrej Fojtik (Cze) 50 4 Martin Kiechle (Ger) 44 5 Sibl Radoslav (Cze) Team Sport Nora 29 6 Robert Hotter (Aut) Team Sport Nora 20 7 Jurgen Van de Walle (Bel) Gatorade Dream Team 1 17 8 Lars Erik Johnson (USA) Gatorade Dream Team 2 15 9 Marzio Deho (Ita) Gatorade Dream Team 1 10 9 Mario Amann (Aut) Baustoff + Metall 1 10 11 Gerhard Gulewicz (Aut) bikestation-salinenimmobiloen.com 2 11 Perry Moerman (Bel) Gatorade Dream Team 2 2 Teams Classification 1 Cairns Coconut Caravan Resort 118.39.10 2 Team Sport Nora 8.51.27 3 skinfit TEAM AUSTRIA 20.08.25 4 Pedale Tarvisiano 21.33.23