As he did in 2009, past Olympic and world champion Bart Brentjens picked up his first Croc-stage win on the track through the Atherton Tablelands. And just like in 2009 the race was decided by a final sprint.
It was the Austrians Rene Haselbacher and Philipp Ludescher who attacked first on today's short stage from Lake Tinaroo to Granite Gorge. But on the 10km long climb onto Mount Edith the field caught up to the elite road racers. Shortly after the lead group formed with today's (and yesterday's) stage winners: Bart Brentjens (NED), Urs Huber (SUI) and Cory Wallace (CAN).
Again the track led riders through dense rainforest, open bushland and finally fertile banana plantations and the trio picked up a six-minute lead onto the pursuing group. “The uphill was very tough again because of the wet and muddy terrain, but overall it was a very fast stage”, stage winner Bart Brentjens said of the day's ride. The Dutch rider won the final sprint in 2:24.32, followed by Urs Huber and Cory Wallace who crossed the finish line with three seconds each behind him.
“Today it was definitely an easier stage than yesterday. I had some trouble finding my pace, however, we worked together well and I'm happy with my second place today”, the Swiss rider summed up his day. Cory Wallace, who is used to climbing steep ascents, was thought to have some disadvantages on today's flat last third of the stage, however, was able to stay on the two favourites wheels throughout the entire day.
After the winning trio a pursuing group of seven riders formed with Allan Oras (EST), Mike Mulkens (BEL) and four Austrians: Philipp Ludescher, Christoph Tschellnig, Christoph Sokoll und René Haselbacher. The flat terrain after the food and drinks depot was ideal for the road racers, allowing them to attack fiercely and – with a friendly and windy support from behind – keep the tempo high.
Aussies sticking together
Abby McLennan, the Cairns-local, liked the first steep ascents and then flat 71km stage with 1,250m of elevation through the Atherton Tablelands. The Australian secured her second stage win with a strong 28 minute lead ahead of her fellow-Aussie riders Nancy Caceres and Lauretta Howarth.
“I trained way more than in 2009. To win the Crocodile Trophy would be fantastic. But a lot can still happen”, says the Rattle N Hum-athelete cautiously despite her respectable lead in the overall classification.
Today's stage finish for the 75 riders, 55 supporters and 30 personal assistants, who are part of the Croc-circus this year, was a beautifully romantic swimming pond, 12km West of Mareeba. At the campground of Granite Gorge wallabies and dingos vie for the attention of the many visitors. Before the Crocodile Trophy heads into the wild Outback of Northern Queensland, the elite and adventure racers can enjoy the unusual landscape of volcanic origins: rocks and boulders look like randomly dropped next to creeks and rivers and a large billabong invites you to jump into its cool water.