Crocodile Trophy 7: Brentjens takes 3-man sprint

Huber remains in overall lead

Today the Crocodile Trophy race leaders beat the seventh day itch. Bart Brentjens claimed stage win number three on the stage from Mt Mulgrave to Laura, which was marked by heat, wind, dust and river crossings. The Dutch rider won the sprint against Switzerland's Urs Huber and Austrian Philipp Ludescher. Heroic was the performance of the Carinthian rider Christoph Sokoll: he finished despite a possible broken collarbone.

Three of the eight riders, who arrived with muddy faces and a good 20 minute lead on the chase group at the aboriginal settlement of Laura, had known since the early morning hours what was ahead of them: both Urs Huber, who leads the overall ranking by 4:19 and chaser Bart Brentjens, as well as current third Mike Mulkens knew the 151km long stage from last year. The conclusions that they drew from having a head start in terms of knowing the track, however, were completely different.

Whilst Mike Mulkens attacked right at the beginning, Huber and Brentjens tried to preserve their energy whilst riding along the endlessly long and dusty roads, which where riddled with river crossings. In the end, the tactics of the two leaders were more effective.

"I kicked off the sprint a little bit too early and was quite tired also from the strong headwind and from riding ahead of the group for quite a while," said Brentjens.

After 4:53:56 of racing the strength of the previous World and Olympic champion was still sufficient to claim the stage win. Urs Huber would have loved to do the same, but the attack of the Swiss rider came a little too late. However, overall the current race leader was quite happy with his second place coming in just one second behind the winner.

"So close, again!" said a disappointed Philipp Ludescher, who rolled across the finish line right after Huber. Because his prospects in the overall rankings are slim due to mechanical failures earlier in the race, he wants nothing more than a stage win. "I messed up the sandy corner before the finish straight and was hanging onto the wrong wheel," said the youngest participant at this year's Crocodile Trophy.

"It's a shame. I felt strong and really thought that I could make it," said an equally disappointed Mike Mulkens. After his early attack the 30-year old Belgian rider was caught at kilometre 100 by eight riders. In the final sprint a crash spoiled his lead position, which he had claimed about three kilometres before the finish line.

Suspense around the leaders' jerseys

A broken seatpost clamp cost Jaan Kirsipuu (M2) from Estonia precious minutes in the overall masters classification. "The leader's jersey is the least of my worries," said Kirsipuu. "I'm more preoccupied how I will get the saddle fixed for tomorrow and well enough so that it doesn't constantly shift from side to side."

Once again the two resourceful Croc-Trophy mechanics Micha and Garrett will face a few challenges, already having their hands full with bikes that have been put through dusty and muddy alternating baths by their owners.

A thankful recipient of the leader's jersey would have been Cristof Mariën (M1), who continued riding the last 20km in the leading group despite a flat tire. The attack of the Belgian rider, however, was aimed at his own age group, which he currently heads up.

A bit of excitement was also happening around the women's leader jersey: Abby McLennan's team was involved in a crash. Even though the Australian got away without any harm, her husband and fellow team rider Scott fell back with a mechanical and later suffered circulatory problems and arrived at Laura very late in the day.

And another rider almost didn't reach the finish at the edge of the Cape York peninsula on his bike. The Austrian rider Christoph Sokoll participated in an early attack and crashed badly at a muddy river crossing. After medical care and under the watchful eyes of the marshals in the sweeper car, the 24-year old fought his 135km long remaining way back to the finish, despite a possible broken collarbone.

First Australian across the line and in today's top 10 was Hans Dielacher (M3), coming through in 5:15:17. Dielacher said of the stage, "It was so hot and hard. I'm really pleased with my progress so far, I wanted to get on the podium in my category and I'm really happy with where I am."

Tuesday's stage thrusts riders eastward against roads of corrugation and holes filled with bull dust and sand while they constantly fight a strong headwind for the entire 142km to Cooktown.


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