Crocodile Trophy 3: Score another for Brentjens

Kangaroo encounter disrupts Haselbacher's race

Stage three, which was probably the hardest stage of this year's Crocodile Trophy, saw Bart Brentjens take his second successive stage win ahead of Urs Huber and Mike Mulkens.

Behind the leading trio, this 144km queen stage of the Crocodile Trophy brought bad luck and collisions with kangaroos.

Racers were spared some trouble by a cooperating sun, which hid all day behind thick cloud cover. In a country where the most corrugated and rutted gravel road is called a "sealed road", the riders found out early in the race what this track description really means: steep ascents, rutted descents, slippery gravel, rough rocks.

On sandy trails and passing humongous termite mounds, the racers saw firsthand the real Aussie Outback, and whilst the rider briefing had promised gravel and asphalt roads to recover half-way through, the accompanying tablelands proved to be a mean attacking area for the stormy headwind.

It was no surprise that the top two race favourites Urs Huber and Bart Brentjens were able to cope well with these conditions after their performances during the first two stages.

Dutchman Brentjens even managed to catch back up with the lead group after a flat tire and then win the stage in a time of 5:18.34. Brentjens finished one second ahead of overall leader Huber.

What did surprise many, including Brentjens himself, was Mulkens was able to keep up with the two top riders over long stretches of the stage and that he came across the finish line with an equally impressive lead of more than half an hour over his pursuers.

"I am more than happy with today's result. The first two days were not bad, but still, in a way everyone expected a third place from me," said the 30-year-old Mulkens. "Now I have it - and I'll defend it with all my might."

It worked in Mulkens' favour that Canadian Cory Wallace, who had been third before today's stage, was thwarted by two tire punctures.

Without any mechanical failures and troubles, Abby McLennan arrived at the historic gold mining town of Irvinebank and thus secured her third stage win in the women's category.

"Every single metre was hard today, even the flat sections, because the head wind almost blew me off my bike. I'm very relieved to finally be here," said the Australian McLennan.

Kangaroo encounter

Imagine that you are riding your bike... and then you're tackled by a kangaroo. No kidding - this happened to the Austrian rider Rene Haselbacher. Riding in a bunch with the fastest Australian Taigh Banson and the Estonians Jaan Kirsipuu and Allan Oras, the elite road racer was hit by a fleeing marsupial that almost brought him to a nasty fall.

"It was just unbelievable!" said Haselbacher. "It just jumped straight through our group and suddenly both I and the kangaroo were spectacularly spun through the air," said a still stunned Haselbacher.

Eye witness Jaan Kirsipuu in turn was struggling after the unexpected encounter with the kangaroo. "I had trouble staying on my bike, because I had to laugh so much," said the 11-time Estonian national champion.

Other Crocodile Trophy racers, however, didn't have as much fun out there today. Most sections of the track were riddled with sharp rocks, which were responsible for countless mechanicals.

Two Austrians, Christopher Sokoll and Christoph Ludescher, were particularly unlucky. Dropping far back because of three flat tires each, at the fourth tire failure, it was hard to know what to do.

"One of the Australian riders recommended that we use an Aussie dollar bill to fix the side walls," said Ludescher of one of the tricks they pair employed. However, the fixed tire didn't withstand the strains of the rough terrain. Luckily, Lauretta Howarth, overall female second, donated them a spare tube and saved the pair from the sweeper bus.

"It's weird, after places eight and four, I was expecting second today," said Ludescher, counting on the probability of recurring events and having a sense of humour about the mishaps of the day. Meanwhile Sokoll hopes that all the bad luck has been used up for the remainder of the race.

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