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13th Crocodile Trophy - NE
Australia, October 23-November 1, 2007
Stage 9 - October 31: Cooktown - Daintree, 106 km
Fojtik takes stage as Bettin secures overall win
By John Flynn in Daintree
Czech Republic rider Ondrej Fojtik (Toyota Dolak) displayed his superior technical riding skills today, to claim the coveted ninth stage of the Crocodile Trophy in the Daintree Rainforest. The winning margin wasn't enough to impact on the overall lead of Italian Mauro Bettin, who will roll into Cape Tribulation tomorrow as the winner of the 13th Crocodile Trophy.
Fojtik crossed the finish line near the village of Ayton at the end of 129 kilometres, with overall race leader Mauro Bettin at his side. The stylish and honourable Italian opted once again not to challenge for stage honours, content in the knowledge he had secured the overall race victory for 2007.
The former World Cup champion tagged Fojtik on the journey along the famous CREB track as both cyclists worked to chase down early stage leader Stefan Rucker of Austria. Rucker attacked on the first major climb of the day and established a margin of close to two minutes.
However, once the key protagonists entered the demanding zig-zag track to Wujal Wujal, the gap narrowed. By the time the leaders reached the river crossing of the Roaring Meg, Bettin and Fojtik had Rucker in their sights.
In the end, it was a fitting result to tie off the General Classification of The Trophy, with the two strongest riders in the event finishing in the top two places. Tomorrow's ride into magnificent Cape Tribulation will be a competitive stage, but the times won't count towards the overall result.
For Fojtik it was a welcome return to the winner's podium after claiming two stages in the 2004 edition of The Crocodile. Once again this year, the Czech rode with consistency, brute strength and skill. "Today was very nice, the stage was beautiful, like a mountain bike race, up and down," Fojtik said. "I was with Mauro and Mauro said to me this morning if we stay together I can win and Mauro not to work. I am happy to win."
In the end, Fojtik gave himself every opportunity to win The Trophy, but ultimately he couldn't match the classy Bettin, who will be remembered as one of the most complete all-round cyclists to win the event. "Mauro is very strong, too strong," Fojtik admitted.
Bettin came to the Crocodile Trophy with the memories of 2005 still fresh in his head. On that occasion, mechanical failure cost the Italian any chance of winning the race. This time around, Bettin experienced more bad luck, but his professionalism, combined with the efforts of his team-mates Benoit Joachim and Max Becker, prevented any significant time losses due to the mishaps which typically plague protagonists in the great outback race.
"I am very happy," Bettin said after today's podium ceremony. "This time I concentrated. I was not in good form, but my head was strong."
How it unfolded
It has become a tradition at the Crocodile Trophy for the peloton to roll out of the remote coastal town of Cooktown, on a stage that ventures into the magnificent Daintree Rainforest of Far North Queensland.
With 123 kilometres ahead, effectively the last true Crocodile Trophy stage, the protagonists gathered near the mouth of the Endeavour River to pose for group photographs and get the final difficult journey underway. In front of the riders was the famed CREB track, a technically challenging passage through the Daintree Rainforest, which included numerous creek and river crossings, some with resident crocodiles.
The first major move of the stage came from Austrian Stefan Rucker who attacked the lead group containing Bettin, Fojtik, Michael Borup, Tim Bennett and Allan Carlsen as it approached the 16 per cent climb at the beginning of the CREB.
Rucker quickly established a gap of close to two minutes, but the odds of holding on appeared slim, given the technical skills of the riders in the chase group. By the time Rucker reached the picturesque river crossing of the Roaring Meg, Fojtik and Bettin had narrowed the margin to just a handful of seconds. With a frighteningly steep downhill ahead, on the edge of the Aboriginal settlement of Wujal Wujal, the conditions were sure to suit both Fojtik and Bettin, who took the lead and powered on together to the finish.
Rucker eventually crossed the line in third place with Australian Time Bennett fourth and Dane Michael Borup fifth. Bennett's impressive effort was enough to gain third place outright on the general classification for the Flight Centre team.
Herremans reaches emotional finish
At the end of his third consecutive twelve hour day on the road, Belgian ironman Marc Herremans reached the finish line of today's penultimate stage of the Crocodile Trophy, to be met with rapturous applause from the entire race caravan.
Herremans, as has become habit, arrived home in total darkness, his team enduring several anxious moments on the frighteningly steep descent into Wujal Wujal, where the Belgian's hand cycle almost lost control. His two team-mates, who have spent the past nine days riding alongside the great man, struggled to maintain their footing as they anchored Herreman's machine on its way down the mountainside.
Tears flowed at the finish line, as the competitors and support staff welcomed home the man who has become, through his incredible deeds, a hero to everyone at the Crocodile Trophy. Finishing the Crocodile as an able bodied athlete is an honour in itself. To finish the event as a paraplegic athlete, cranking a hand cycle across 1,400 kilometres of Outback Australia, perhaps defies description.
"Five years ago I thought my life was over and now it's a dream come true," an emotional Herremans said. "This is just great because not many people believed in it."
Herremans has just thirty kilometres left of his epic journey, and will be supported by the entire peloton as he powers his way towards Cape Tribulation tomorrow. It will bring to the end a physical challenge beyond description and a mental challenge which places Herremans in a rare category of human beings. "Mentally it's very tough because when you're disabled you cannot do everything by yourself, it's quite hard mentally," Herremans said. "But I'm happy that I'm almost at the finish, one day to go."
Herremans was taken straight to the race doctor again tonight upon his arrival at the stage finish. Precisely what toll this race has taken on him is beginning to be made clear. "In Belgiun they say you're in the zone and already for three days I'm in the zone," Herremans said. "I don't think clearly any more.I'm so tired I can't think so I just push and pull, I have to recover for one year."
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by John Flynn/Cyclingnews.com
Elite Men 1 Ondrej Fojtik (Cze) Toyota Dolak 4.40.19 (26.33 km/h) 2 Mauro Bettin (Ita) Dream Team1 3 Stefan Rucker (Aut) Elk Haus 4.44 4 Tim Bennett (Aus) The Flight Centre Team1 17.34 5 Michael Borup (Den) Team GHOST - avj.dk 6 Jacob Agger Troelsen (Den) Team Wonsild - www.wonsild.dk 21.06 7 Nick Both (Aus) The Flight Centre Team2 8 Benoit Joachim (Lux) Dream Team1 28.54 9 Brett Anderson (Aus) Trak Cycles 28.58 10 Attila Marton (Hun) Meditech Sport Club - CIB Leasing 30.52 11 Dave Wood (Aus) The Flight Centre Team1 33.18 12 Dennis Van Mill (Aus) Team Gordon Street Cycles - Solid Stairs 34.12 13 Roman Stastny (Cze) Rock Machine - Cyklomax 14 Gerald Bauer (Aut) Publicity PowerBike Team 37.34 15 Max Becker (Lux) Dream Team1 16 Radoslav Sibl (Cze) Team Ironbike - Bikezone 17 Ryan Hawson (Aus) The Flight Centre Team1 18 Patric Wiedmer (Swi) Wiedmer-RRGLMV 59.29 19 Lukas Mraz (Cze) X - SPORTS 1.00.58 20 Matt Hubber (Aus) 1.09.34 21 Daniele Avico (Ita) 2.02.39 22 Dario Cerisara (Ita) Cicli Giorgio 2.59.21 23 Marc Herremans (Bel) Team Heremans 5.19.41 24 Dirk Van Gossum (Bel) Team Heremans 25 Glenn Creynen (Bel) Team Heremans M1 1 Allan Carlsen (Den) Alb-Gold Mountainbike Team 4.54.22 (25.07 km/h) 2 Roberto Haegdons (Bel) Belgian Joven Team_01 7.03 3 Valentin Zeller (Aut) Endurance Team Kärnten 4 Ewart Van der Putten (Ned) HERBALIFE-MERIDA 14.51 5 Allen St Pierre (USA) 14.55 6 Salvatore Paolo Albano (Ita) Pedale Tarvisiano 20.09 7 Christoph Herr (Ger) Team Radsport König 31.51 8 Chrisophe Heinix (Bel) Team www.sjette.be 9 Mauro Canale (Ita) Team Ironbike 42.08 10 Joan Valbuena Roset (Spa) Valbuena 11 Karel Peelman (Bel) 43.26 12 Philipp Zenklusen (Swi) World Wide Erne Spirit 45.26 13 Robby Lemmens (Bel) Belgian Joven Team_02 55.31 14 Franz Schwoediauer (Aut) Hrinkow Bikes 58.51 15 Christan Hofer (Aut) Radsport Janger 59.42 16 Christophe Desimpelaere (Den) Riis Cycling 1.03.20 17 Giovanni Roveri (Ita) Cicli Giorgio 1.12.25 18 Roman Petr (Svk) 1.13.47 19 Struan Lamont (Aus) Team Scott 1.20.19 20 Josh Freeman (Aus) Team Gordon Street Cycles - Solid Stairs 1.23.02 21 Lloyd Newell (Aus) Team Gordon Street Cycles - Solid Stairs 1.34.36 22 Jose Ezequiel Garcia Carmona (Spa) Valbuena 1.58.31 23 Michalak Slawomir (Pol) Bank BGZ Team 2.45.18 24 Juan Kolbe Castillo Inga (Spa) Valbuena 2.53.55 25 Günter Rafeiner (Aut) KTM Mountainbiker.at 3.27.55 26 Bohuslav Babor (Cze) X - SPORTS 3.31.05 M2 1 Kurt Alderweireldt (Bel) Kyphon 5.17.53 (23.22 km/h) 2 Willy Welles (Ned) Mega-NPB.NL 3 Lieb Loots SA Squirt Lube 4 Rudolf Senn (Swi) World Wide Erne Spirit 21.55 5 Scott McLennan (Aus) Abs Security 47.36 6 Freddy Compernolle (Bel) Team www.sjette.be 1.04.15 7 Christan Sengstbratl (Aut) SV Lichtenberg 8 Greg Featonby (Aus) Full Cycle of Albury 1.11.05 9 Han Vaalt (Ned) Klein-Puelhuis 1.29.58 10 Eduard Pleschutznig (Aut) Endurance Team Kärnten 2.12.26 11 Joseph Kerkhofs (Bel) Belgian Joven Team_01 2.21.47 12 Wallace King (Can) Athleteslowyer.de 13 Dave Webb (Aus) Marco Polo (CTBE) 3.07.34 DNF Franz Duller (Aut) Fincon - CML Women 1 Michela Benzoni (Ita) Team Lissone Isolmant 5.18.31 (23.17 km/h) 2 Sandra Klomp (Ita) Team Ironbike 17.59 3 Marika Covre (Ita) Bike Pro Action 1.03.37 4 Lindy Vandevenne (Bel) Belgian Joven Team_01 2.21.09 5 Helle Sejersen Jepsen (Den) Riis Cycling General Classification after Stage 9 Elite men 1 Mauro Bettin (Ita) Dream Team 38.09.48 2 Ondrej Fojtik (Cze) Toyota Dolak 25.47 3 Tim Bennett (Aus) The Flight Centre Team 1.07.12 4 Michael Borup (Den) Team GHOST - avj.dk 1.16.07 5 Stefan Rucker (Aut) Elk Haus 1.18.35 6 Radoslav Sibl (Cze) Team Ironbike - Bikezone 1.28.07 7 Benoit Joachim (Lux) Dream Team 2.11.18 8 Attila Marton (Hun) Meditech Sport Club - CIB 2.55.14 9 Brett Anderson (Aus) Trak Cycles 3.01.01 10 Nick Both (Aus) The Flight Centre Team 3.09.16 11 Jacob Agger Troelsen (Den) Team Wonsild - www.wonsild.dk 3.14.04 12 Gerald Bauer (Aut) Publicity PowerBike Team 3.59.58 13 Dennis Van Mill (Aus) Team Gordon Street Cycles 4.15.19 14 Ryan Hawson (Aus) The Flight Centre Team 4.54.19 15 Max Becker (Lux) Dream Team 5.00.48 16 Dave Wood (Aus) The Flight Centre Team 5.27.10 17 Roman Stastny (Cze) Rock Machine - Cyklomax 6.41.46 18 Patric Wiedmer (Swi) Wiedmer-RRGLMV 8.29.44 19 Matt Hubber (Aus) 11.15.39 20 Lukas Mraz (Cze) X - SPORTS 11.19.00 21 Daniele Avico (Ita) 14.10.06 22 Dario Cerisara (Ita) Cicli Giorgio 30.26.57 23 Marc Herremans (Bel) Team Heremans 46.25.13 24 Dirk Van Gossum (Bel) Team Heremans 25 Glenn Creynen (Bel) Team Heremans Points classification 1 Mauro Bettin (Ita) 115 pts 2 Stefan Rucker (Aut) 89 4 Ondrej Fojtik (Cze) 64 3 Benoit Joachim (Lux) 60 5 Radoslav Sibl (Cze) 32 6 Michael Borup (Den) 29 8 Tim Bennett (Aus) 27 7 Gerald Bauer (Aut) 25 9 Nick Both (Aus) 15 10 Max Becker (Lux) 10 11 Attila Marton (Hun) 2 Team classification 1 Dream Team 121.21.48 2 The Flight Centre Team 4.36.22 3 Team Ironbike 11.47.26 4 Team Gordon Street Cycles 23.41.41 5 Belgian Joven Team_01 45.32.10 6 Valbuena 48.37.26 7 Team Heremans 100.19.33 M1 1 Allan Carlsen (Den) Alb-Gold Mountainbike Team 38.59.26 2 Valentin Zeller (Aut) Endurance Team Kärnten 1.28.37 3 Roberto Haegdons (Bel) Belgian Joven Team_01 1.31.40 4 Ewart Van der Putten (Ned) HERBALIFE-MERIDA 1.57.44 5 Allen St Pierre (USA) 2.03.25 6 Salvatore Paolo Albano (Ita) Pedale Tarvisiano 2.43.11 7 Chrisophe Heinix (Bel) Team www.sjette.be 3.20.28 8 Karel Peelman (Bel) 5.34.34 9 Robby Lemmens (Bel) Belgian Joven Team_02 6.49.42 10 Christophe Desimpelaere (Den) Riis Cycling 7.49.00 11 Mauro Canale (Ita) Team Ironbike 7.56.49 12 Struan Lamont (Aus) Team Scott 8.09.44 13 Christan Hofer (Aut) Radsport Janger 8.33.39 14 Franz Schwoediauer (Aut) Hrinkow Bikes 8.46.03 15 Christoph Herr (Ger) Team Radsport König 8.52.43 16 Lloyd Newell (Aus) Team Gordon Street Cycles 9.34.14 17 Philipp Zenklusen (Swi) World Wide Erne Spirit 11.24.41 18 Roman Petr (Svk) 11.44.59 19 Joan Valbuena Roset (Spa) Valbuena 13.48.07 20 Giovanni Roveri (Ita) Cicli Giorgio 14.53.00 21 Josh Freeman (Aus) Team Gordon Street Cycles 15.05.16 22 Jose Ezequiel Garcia Carmona (Spa) Valbuena 15.13.37 23 Bohuslav Babor (Cze) X - SPORTS 18.22.07 24 Michalak Slawomir (Pol) Bank BGZ Team 23.44.33 25 Juan Kolbe Castillo Inga (Spa) Valbuena 23.59.12 26 Günter Rafeiner (Aut) KTM Mountainbiker.at 25.35.56 M2 1 Lieb Loots SA Squirt Lube 42.58.22 2 Willy Welles (Ned) Mega-NPB.NL 28.27 3 Rudolf Senn (Swi) World Wide Erne Spirit 2.46.37 4 Kurt Alderweireldt (Bel) Kyphon 5.35.26 5 Scott McLennan (Aus) Abs Security 6.50.09 6 Greg Featonby (Aus) Full Cycle of Albury 7.14.31 7 Freddy Compernolle (Bel) Team www.sjette.be 7.18.25 8 Christan Sengstbratl (Aut) SV Lichtenberg 8.38.36 9 Han Vaalt (Ned) Klein-Puelhuis 14.01.27 10 Wallace King (Can) Athleteslowyer.de 14.01.30 11 Eduard Pleschutznig (Aut) Endurance Team Kärnten 19.01.45 12 Joseph Kerkhofs (Bel) Belgian Joven Team_01 20.12.25 13 Dave Webb (Aus) Marco Polo (CTBE) 24.52.03 Women 1 Michela Benzoni (Ita) Team Lissone Isolmant 43.03.39 2 Sandra Klomp (Ita) Team Ironbike 3.31.05 3 Marika Covre (Ita) Bike Pro Action 9.54.16 4 Lindy Vandevenne (Bel) Belgian Joven Team_01 20.08.26 5 Helle Sejersen Jepsen (Den) Riis Cycling 20.18.19