Stage 10: Hansen honoured with Stage win
Naomi Hansen, the woman who for the past ten days has managed a smile, even in her darkest moments, was handed the ultimate accolade by her fellow Crocodile Trophy combatants today.
As the peloton rolled onto the beautiful beach, fringed with World Heritage Listed Rainforest, race winner Ondrej Fojtik (VIG+ Racing) steered his bike to oneside, making way for the Coopers Shimano Dream Team cyclist, who crossed the finish line in first place to claim the stage winner’s boo-merang.
In his role as leader of the peloton, a humble Fojtik approached Hansen at today’s final drink station on the road through the Daintree Rainforest to ask if the she would accept the honour of leading the bunch home. Under race rules, the final stage of the race is not timed, and ultimately it is up to the riders to decide how the race ends.
For those who were here in 2007, it brought back memories of the day the peloton stopped to honour Belgian ironman Marc Herremans and it may well be that the “right of passage” on the final stage will become a tradition at Australia’s Outback Classic.
“It was amazing, I was just flattered actually when Ondrej came up to me and told me,” Hansen said. “I didn’t know what to say, I was just so grateful and it was just awesome.”
Hansen, the Noosa veterinarian, who has taken time away from practice to pursue her cycling dreams, finished third in what will be remembered as the strongest women’s contest yet staged at the Crocodile Trophy. The dogfight between eventual winner Karen Steurs of Belgium (Race For The Stars) and Jo Bennett of Australia (Merida Flight Centre) was captivating.
When the peloton departed the village off Ayton this morning on its final journey through the mountains of the Daintree, the spirit of friendship in the peloton was everywhere to be seen. According to race tradition, bikers went in procession until the final drink station and the mood turned to one of celebration, not just for the riders, but also the event staff who kept the Crocodile Trophy caravan rolling.
On the road, Cyclists who just weeks ago were complete strangers swapped jerseys and embraced as members of what race organiser Gerhard Schoenbacher has long described as the “Crocodile Trophy Family”.
Australia’s Craig Gordon, who toiled for days on end against the unrelenting might of the Czech Republic’s VIG+ Racing, shared much of the scenic stage with Ivan Rybarik, the man he came to describe as “the Ivanator” thanks to his habit of blasting away the opposition with pure power.
It said much that the top three placings at the 2008 Crocodile Trophy (Ondrej Fojtik, Martin Horak and Tomas Trunschka) all went to Czech cyclists from the mountainbiking juggernaut VIG+ Racing. The team came to the race with a plan and, as race supremo Gerhard Schoenbacher pointed out, it was a plan executed with military precision.
“There were seven riders, some of them very well known in the World Cup, they had a mechanic a masseuse, they had a doctor, they had everything that you need to win a bike race like this.” Most of all, what VIG+ Racing had was Ondrej Fojtik, a cyclist with the right attributes, right attitude and, of equal importance, the knowledge gained from two previous campaigns.
Fojtik and his teammates had every right to celebrate with a swim in the ocean at Cape Tribulation. Still, at the forefront of Ondrej’s thoughts was wife Pavla, a member of the Crocodile Trophy family, who this year stayed at home in the Czech republic awaiting the birth of the couple’s child.
“Next year I should come back with the entire Belgian National Team,” Vermeulen said in a light-heared dig at VIG+ Racing. “I think I made the race a race against the Czechians, “It’s a beautiful end of my season so I’m happy.”
It was also an end to the season for Belgian Karen Steurs, only in her case, the race helmet and gloves will no longer be needed. The winner of the women’s Crocodile Trophy finally released the pressure valve today, after being pushed all the way by Australia’s Jo Bennett.
“It’s wonderful the finish on the beach, it’s amazing,” Steurs said. “It’s wonderful end my career with winning the crocodile trophy and I want to thank my two boys, for what they did for me this ten days, and also the other Belgian guys who have helped me.”
It may have come by way of a gift from the Czech Republic, but whatever the case, consistent effort was rewarded again at the Crocodile Trophy as Belgium’s national marathon mountain-bike champion Nic Vermeulen claimed victory.
The life’s dream of Czech cylist Fojtik - to win the Crocodile Trophy - is now clearly within reach after today’s dramatic “Queen Stage” of Australia’s Outback Classic from Quinkan Country to Cooktown.
Czech cyclist Ondrej Fojtik effectively achieved his life’s dream today, winning the Crocodile Trophy in the most emphatic fashion possible, with a victory in the penultimate stage from Cooktown to Ayton.