Dream days for Fojtik and Gordon
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.
Fojtik reached the crest of Cooktown’s Grassy Hill in second place, after sharing the effort over the final kilometres with Australia’s Craig Gordon, who emerged as a deserving stage winner on a day of high drama, at the summit of one of the world’s most spectacular hilltop finishes.
Gordon managed to join Fojtik twenty kilometres from the finish of today’s stage, just as the Czech’s long distance breakaway with Belgian Nic Vermeulen was about to be reeled in.
At that point Fojtik’s Czech team-mates decided to relax, leaving it to a fresher Gordon and a tiring Fojtik to fight it out for the stage win.
The scenario proved beneficial to both riders, with Fojtik extending G.C. lead over second-placed Horak to more than five minutes and Gordon, the former World 24 Hour solo Champion, gaining the gravitas that go with the Crocodile Trophy’s most sought after stage victory.
“Oh just very, very lucky, those Czech guys are just so strong, they just got on the front and did a lot of work,” Gordon said after what could be described as opportunistic, but nonetheless ethical stage win.
Embroiled in what appeared to be a heated contest for the general classification with his renegade team-mate Martin Horak, who attacked repeatedly today in a desperate attempt to steal the race lead, Fojtik proved he was the stronger man – and the one most worthy from the stable of VIG+ cyclists, of wearing the race leader’s jersey.
As he peered south from atop Grassy Hill, the same place British navigator James Cook surveyed a passage through the Great Barrier Reef for his stricken ship, The Endeavour, in 1770, Fojtik could almost see his ultimate prize on the far horizon.
“I hope that I will be winner tomorrow and I think that this stage was for me and Martin the most important,” Fojtik said.
With the G.C. lead at more than five minutes, even the best attacking efforts of the renegade Horak probably won’t be enough to peg back the margin on tomorrow’s stage to the Daintree, which Fojtik won in 2007.
As per the tradition of the Crocodile Trophy, the General Classification for riders will be decided at the end of stage nine. On the final day, the protagonists ride together into Cape Tribulation on a stage that is not timed, but ends in a sprint finish on a rainforest fringed beach.
If Fojtik holds on tomorrow, he will win the Australia’s Outback Classic.
In the women’s race, Belgian Karen Steurs (Race For The Stars) produced her greatest effort of the Crocodile Trophy so-far to not only peg back the race lead of Australia’s Jo Bennett (Merida Flight Centre), but give herself what looks to be a winning margin. Steurs reached the top of Grassy Hill almost twenty minutes in front of Bennett, giving herself the race lead by a staggering margin of more than fifteen minutes.
Steurs made her move when the race reached the rolling hills of Lakefield National Park, and ably supported by a posse of Belgians, inflicted serious damage on the Merida Flight Centre’ team’s hopes of winning the Crocodile Trophy for women.
Physically spent, but still holding it together mentally at the end of today’s stage, Bennett didn’t appear impressed with the Belgian tactics, but remained measured with her words.
“I found that a bit tougher today,” Bennett admitted.
I’ll recover as well as I can tonight and tomorrow I’ll give it everything, hopefully I’ll make a little bit of time up through the mountainbike sections.”
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.
The Czech Republic made it a six-pack of stage victories at Australia’s Crocodile Trophy as VIG+ Racing’s Kejval Lubos delivered on the promise he showed during yesterday’s stage at Chillagoe.
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.