Crocodile Trophy: Trunschka won stage 3

A hard fought stage win by Trunschka - his second in three days, ably supported by overall race leader Fojtik, solidified the winning position for the Czechs at the 2008 Crocodile Trophy in Australia’s remote Tropical North.

Crocodile Trophy.  Copyright: Crocodile TrophyThe brutal 122 kilometre mountain stage 3 from the World Heritage rainforest of Koombooloomba Dam to the outback cattle station at Gunnawarra Lagoon took in the greatest variety of terrain and surface conditions likely to be seen at any bike race on the planet. The attrition rate was understandably high as the protagonists of the Crocodile Trophy fought the elements and their internal demons, with many riders coming to an abrupt realisation of what Australia’s outback classic is really all about.

As expected the Czechs attacked early as the peloton ventured out from Koombooloomba on a picturesque rainforest road and team VIG’s Martin Horak launched the first major assault when the lead bunch entered the famed powerline track, which has claimed many victims in this race.

Horak was offered a little breathing space early as the remaining non-Czeck contenders in the race, most notably Nic Vermeulen (Belgium) and Australian solo entrant Craig Gordon kept a close eye on overall leader Ondrej Fojtik. But with so many options at their disposal and four riders at the top of the general classification, the Czechs held the aces.

The technical mountainous section of the powerline track was always destined to produce a “serious sorting out” of the race’s “heads of state” and so it was that at the end of the steep rocky climbs and daring descents, that four riders were left in the hunt for the stage - Gordon, Vermeulen, Fojtik and Trunschka, who led on the road.

A series of attacks followed on the dead straight red dirt road which headed to the outback cattle station at Gunnawarra Lagoon. Gordon fought to stay in contention and Vermeulen gave it everything as Fojtik and Trunschka took turns to launch themselves off the front.
“It was hot, very hot, but nice track, with the Czech team it is difficult,” Vermeulen, who finished third at stage end admitted.

“On the technical I’m maybe the best. Then for the finish is one against three Czechs, the Australian was good, but he could just follow.”
Gordon, whose form appears to be improving with each day also came close. Had the stage finished at the end of the powerline track he would have been a podium contender, but with such a long run into the finish, it was never going to suit a pure mountainbiker.

“A hard day, a little bit disappointing, I got fourth but the Czechs look like they’ve got this race sewn up,” the Australian solo entrant conceded.

For the Czechs it was another case of mission accomplished as they consider the prospect of “world domination” at this truly international event.

“There were three of us and it was very fast at the end of the race,” Trunschka said. “I am happy to be the winner.”

The real story of stage three was typified by the claret-spattered bodies that made it to the finish line late in the day. Both of the Americans in the race Tim Caulkins and Sean Noonan suffered almost unbearably due to flat tyres, fatigue and heat stress and Austrian Valentin Zeller also gave up due to mechanical failure.

In total four cyclists have withdrawn from the race. One of those, Norbert Heinz can’t wait to get a flight home. “I will go home because I’m done, I’m tired, I guess I underestimated the challenge,” Heinz said.

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