On a shortened stage through tropical rainforests Austrian rider Philipp Ludescher finally got himself a stage win and with it the highly desired Boomerang. The youngest participant of the Crocodile Trophy won ahead of Estonian Allan Oras and Canada's Cory Wallace in a thrilling sprint.
Fellow Austrian Christoph Sokoll was forced to watch the race from the sidelines after a broken collar bone cut the event short for the Carinthian rider.
Not a day passes without any challenges for the organisers of the Crocodile Trophy. From mudslides and a race restart to broken-down depot cars and a tragic fatality - the crisis management skills of organiser Gerhard Schönbacher and his crew have been challenged at this year's event.
On the ninth day of the Trophy a new stage route had to be found quickly. "The Bloomfield River's water levels are extremely high this year. To cross it would be totally irresponsible," explained Schönbacher at the daily rider briefing. Thus, instead of the demanding and steep Zig-Zag-track, the loop around the stage destination of Ayton was shortened to a 10km lap on gravel and asphalt and the stage length was 80km instead the originally-planned 124; above all however, the 700m of climbing was eliminated.
Team McSabutage, consisting of Rene Haselbacher and Philipp Ludescher, took advantage of the circumstances. "Rene constantly attacked, while I was comfortably riding in the bunch," said stage winner Ludescher. Eventually, several of the eight riders in the leading bunch tried to break away and besides the Austrian, Oras and Wallace were successful.
With 40 seconds' lead the trio raced towards the finish, where Philipp Ludescher displayed all of his experience from his "real life" as an elite road racer. "I picked the tightest line in the last sandy corner before the finish line and was able to brazen it out," he said.
Wallace, who is a pro on the climbing sections, arrived at the finish line hanging onto the back wheels of his fellow escapees. Even though he would have liked to console himself with a Boomerang for the lost third place in the overall classification, the TransRockies winner and runner up at the recent 24H Solo World Championships in Canberra accepted his defeat.
"I can't do more than try hard and give my best. But the climbs were too short for me today and sprinting is not one of my biggest strengths. Maybe I'll have more luck tomorrow," he said.
In the three masters and one female category, yesterday's results were repeated: the stage wins were claimed by the category leaders - Christof Mariën (Belgium), Jaan Kirsipuu (Estonia), Hans Dielacher (Austria) and Abby McLennan (Australia).
Time trial to wrap it up
After eight days through rainforests and outback the riders' energy levels are dwindling, the legs are tired and the posteriors sore. Even ultra-marathon athlete Franz Preihs, tormented by blisters on his feet, was gratified at today's shortened ride.
"The shorter the stage, the less my feet are swelling up and the less pain I am in. Also, now that you can literally smell the race finish, the motivation goes up," said the Styrian, who had hoped for a better placing than fourth in the M1 classification.
Following the tradition of well-known road races, the 16th Crocodile Trophy will end tomorrow with a 38km long time trial. Overall leader Urs Huber, who had a broken spoke today but lost no time on his chaser Bart Brentjens, is expecting an attack by the Dutch rider.
"Today I began to notice that I'm tired. But if nothing happens, my time gap should be enough," said the Swiss rider, hopeful for a second Trophy victory.