Fojtik stage win seals result
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.
Under siege from VIG+ Racing team-mate Martin Horak who attacked again today as the race ventured past the famous “Lions Den Hotel” near Cooktown, Fojtik was forced to prove once and for all that he was the best rider of the 2008 Outback Classic.
The backdrop for the contest could not have been more captivating. The 124 kilometre journey with 1900 metres of elevation included steep mountain climbs, technical descents and even crocodile inhabited river crossings.
In second place on the General Classification heading into today’s stage, five minutes behind Fojtik, Horak won no friends within his Czech team that rallied to support the race leader in his great moment of need. Tomorrow’s final stage to the rainforest-fringed beach at Cape Tribulation will not be timed, meaning the leader on G.C. Afer today only needs to finish tomorrow to win the race.
Nicknamed “The Ivanator” by his rivals, Czech strongman Ivan Rybarik pulled huge turns to reel in his renegade team-mate Horak, assisted also by Tomas Trunschka and Fojtik himself, who had more reason than anyone to chase down the move.
At one stage Horak’s lead stretched to more than two minutes, but the combined efforts of Trun-schka, Rybarik and Fojtik saw the margin reduced greatly by the time the leaders reached the sec-ond feed zone.
When the moment of truth came as the race ventured upward on a 20% gradient to the legendary CREB Track, Fojtik lifted to another level. The Czech, who had twice finished second at the Crocodile Trophy in 2004 and 2007, decided it was time to stamp his authority on the race and earn his own rightful place on the list of Crocodile Trophy Champions.
“I am happy that I win the stage and get the boomerang (awarded to the stage winner) because I think it was the most difficult stage of the Crocodile and for me it’s great satisfaction,” Fojtik said. “It was most important that I had Ivan and Tomas Trunschka to help today and I thank them so much, for me their help was the real highlight.”
The day wasn’t so kind for third-placed Belgian Nic Vermeulen, who exploded on one of the steeper climbs as the race ventured onto the technically challenging “Zig-Zag Track”, which took riders over a spectacular river crossing at the Roaring Meg.
Vermeulen’s loss was the gain of Australia’s Craig Gordon, who, provided he crossed the finish line in Cape Tribulation tomorrow, will end his race in fourth place on the General Classification.
“That was an awesome day, loved it,” Gordon said. “It was quite tactical, one of the Czech guys (Horak) went off the front, Ondrej and a few other guys were working to pull him back. We caught him (Horak) before the first big climb."
Again, it was an all-Czech podium result today as Fojtik was joined by VIG+ racing team-mates Trunschka in second place and Horak third.
In the women’s event Belgian Karen Steurs put her foot to the floor today, despite already being 15 minutes ahead of Australia’s Joanne Bennett going into the stage.
Retiring at the end of the race, Steurs was comfortable in the knowledge, the pain experienced during her past six years on the road is almost over.
“The beginning was easy in the group, then it became hilly and I found my own tempo, went great,” Steurs said. “Last time of suffering. Six years I have been cycling and now, the end."
Steurs brought back memories of another of the Crocodile Trophy’s winners, Christophe Stevens, by declaring her immediate retirement when the race reaches Cape Tribulation tomorrow.
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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.