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FELT - Shimano Dream Team

Australia's Darren O'Grady

A long road ahead

By:
Cycling News
Published:
January 27, 2007, 0:00 GMT,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:01 BST

It's that time of year and the FELT - Shimano Dream Team has assembled yet again for the 2006...

FELT - Shimano Dream Team Diaries - October 19, 2006

It's that time of year and the FELT - Shimano Dream Team has assembled yet again for the 2006 Crocodile Trophy. This year the Dream Team boasts two Australians and an Austrian endurance specialist. As in years past, there were the last-minute changes to the line-up, Sean Yates, Director Spotif of Discovery Channel Team and winner of 18 independent races in the 2006 season, had to withdraw his entry due to personal commitments.

When the Dream Team arrived at the start line it consisted of the following:
Darren O'Grady - Former track specialist and current Masters MTB Australian Champion.
Valentine Zeller - Austrian endurance and adventure race specialist. 2004 World Champion Endurance Cyclist.
David Wood - Australian, environmental engineer from Cairns. David is now riding his third Crocodile Trophy.

Stage One: Townsville to Townsville Criterium, 15 km

The first stage was the same nightmare as that of the 2005 Crocodile Trophy…after days of bike wrenching and tweaking, the Dream Team, along with the other 45 cyclists, rode 15km in a sandy brine. Afterwards, it was another three-hours of cleaning and wrenching the salty damage out of the brakes, chain and bearings, at Top Brand Bike Shop in Townsville.

It was criminal to put the 2007 Shimano XTR to that test - a headache to say the least. The boys finished almost together on the stage, landing the FELT - Shimano Dream Team in pole position for the teams standings.

The Dream Team is also involved with FELT's sponsorship of the Most Aggressive Rider Jersey - with the winner receiving a FELT RXC Team bike at the end of the race in Cairns.

Stage Two: Hervey's Range - Hidden Valley, 103 km

Zellar reported following the stage the pack stayed tight for the first 35 kilometres of the stage, until after the first feed zone. When the race then hit the dirt, the once neatly bunched group of hitters, blew apart. The surface of the road was a mixture of saturated bull dust and clay, the descents were slippery and the climbs required leg searing strength. It was a reality check for most, including the Dream Team's Darren O'Grady who will surely ride into strength as this endurance survival adventure hits the 100 km mark.

David Wood rolled out of Hervey's Range with a big smile on his face, as he was, being a local environmental engineer, familiar with this stage. Wood likes it when there is any technical element, so the clay and wet bull dust over the climbs was right up his alley and aided him to an impressive fifth position. Wood's girl friend Melanie Grant is racing the Crocodile Trophy for her first time so Wood made sure he set her up before heading straight for the front bunch. A smiling Grant finished just 90 minutes after Wood.

In eighth place, Zeller was the second of the Dream Team to cross the line into Hidden Valley - a beautiful oasis in the Australian Outback….there is even a pub! Zeller commented that he was the first to attack today and that he fully expects to be donning two pairs of nicks for tomorrow's stage, as his backside has just been introduced to the corrugations that make the Crocodile Trophy!

O'Grady fulfilled his own prediction that today may very well be the wake up call he needs to snap into racing form for the event - the world's longest, most gruelling, mountain bike stage race. O'Grady was later heard singing tunes in the shower - evidence that he is actually well within his comfort zone. O'Grady is our best kept secret.

David Wood

Tactical Territory

By:
Cycling News
Published:
January 27, 2007, 0:00 GMT,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:01 BST

The FELT - Shimano Dream Team's strategy began to take form today during the longest stage of the...

FELT - Shimano Dream Team Diaries 2006 - October 20, 2006

Stage Three: Hidden Valley - Lamond's Lagoon, 156 km

The FELT - Shimano Dream Team's strategy began to take form today during the longest stage of the 2006 Crocodile Trophy. From the first pedal stroke of the 156 km stage, the boys in green had a plan. Valentine Zeller finished a comfortable third into the enchanting Lamond's Lagoon after beating the current race leader by the width of a tyre - letting a few cards show to the other overall contenders. Zeller commented: "The equipment is perfect, my bike is perfect. I am feeling more comfortable with the longer stages. I'll get stronger over the distance."

The Dream Team is currently leading the team competition by nearly and hour and this just the third stage of the 13 stage event.

Even the FELT Most Aggressive rider competition is sitting quite securely with today's stage winner Stefan Rucker, who had a massive solo effort out the front today. A disaster yesterday saw Rucker make a wrong turn after 100 km, while riding alone out the front, resulting in a loss of 20 minutes on the race leaders. So today when Rucker jumped away from the group of five, including Dream Team's Zeller, he was left to his own plan while the remaining leaders were only thinking of the overall competition.

Zeller was more than aware that both of his Dream Team team-mates were just 15-minutes behind the leaders and that as a result conserved energy by not pushing the pack harder. This Dream Team tactic was met with much distain from the three other race leaders but Zeller was not phased: "It's always this way with the Dream Team." Current race leader Heinz Zorweg is competing as an individual in his second Crocodile Trophy, hence his frustration with the Dream Team tactic. 'C'est la vie' was the attitude in the camp.

Darren O'Grady and David Wood rode the entire stage with Wood's former team mate, Stran Lamont, who snapped his saddle in half 45 km into the stage. Lamont rode over 100 km on a broken saddle, with a Dream Team custom Selle Italia saddle in his pocket 'just in case'.

OGrady said with a big grin: " All I could think about for the last 50 km today was the icy cold Cooper's that would be mine upon arrival." True to form, Darren downed a coldie within minutes of arrival into the Dream Team compound. O'Grady is getting stronger by the minute and truly loving this ride in the outback.

David Wood had another strong performance today, riding smooth and easy all day. Wood and O'Grady have their sights set on the Koombaloomba stage in two days time. Incidentally, the Dream Team won the Koombaloomba stage in 2004 with Alberto Elli and struck disaster in the same stage in 2005 when Mauro Bettin punctured four times on the stage. Surely the Green Machine will be prepared fore anything in 2006!

Now after a long five-hours and 16-minutes in the saddle, the Dream Team is taking a massage and enjoying the almost jungle like sounds of the outback - fire side!

Felt Shimano Dream Team cyclist

Stuck in the mud

By:
Cycling News
Published:
January 27, 2007, 0:00 GMT,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:01 BST

The Felt Shimano Dream Team Support crew of Ross Mogelton and Josey Wales, along with Dream Team...

FELT - Shimano Dream Team Diaries, October 20, 2006

Stage Four: Lamond's Lagoon - Goshen Station, 109 km

The Felt Shimano Dream Team Support crew of Ross Mogelton and Josey Wales, along with Dream Team Cyclist Darren O'Grady, took a sneak preview of the first river crossing last evening when they went looking for fresh water. The trio bogged the team car in the deep sand on the riverbank - a mistake that required serious lateral thinking on the parts of O'Grady and Mogelton. Wales was too busy taking photos of the dastardly duo and laughing to be of much use.

As the story goes, O'Grady and Mogelton dropped into the sandy bog and dug all four wheels free with their bare hands and then proceeded to jack the car up to put rocks and logs under it - effectively building a road to drive out on. Once finished reinventing the road, the two went on to push the team's 'all-wheel-drive' Ford into another bog. It was a frustrating, yet funny, caper and they all bathed in the river after another sweaty dig-out.

O'Grady's opening comments as a cyclist were: " there is absolutely no way I am pushing this car out of the sand." But history now says that 20 minutes later the South Australian was on all fours digging - so he could subsequently push the team car out. Just goes to show the best laid plans are often no more than a pipe dream!

The first river crossing in stage four from Lamond's Lagoon to Goshen Station was the very spot where, just 12-hours earlier, the trio had a little private adventure. "We just did not want to come back to camp and tell Christi we were bogged… so we kept at it." Laughed Wales of the incident.

Stage four was a perfect ride for the Dream Team. All three riders had the word from management, " If we are not playing for the win, we do nothing. Just stay together and don't let anyone dangerous get away." So when Rucker jumped away during the first five kilometres, the trend was set.

Feeling great today, O'Grady had some thought of hunting the Austrian escapee down but thought better of it, as he would have to waste too much personal energy to do it on his own. O'Grady and Wood will be under the pump tomorrow and surely looking to put a score on the board heading toward Koombaloomba Dam.

Zeller had a recovery day today and moral is high within the entire Dream Team.

Dave Wood up close

The fear of tomorrow

By:
Cycling News
Published:
January 27, 2007, 0:00 GMT,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:01 BST

Dave Wood had an amazing ride, finishing second into Koombooloomba Dam on stage five. Wood came...

FELT - Shimano Dream Team Diaries, October 22, 2006

Stage Five: Blencoe Falls - Koombooloomba, 75 km

Dave Wood had an amazing ride, finishing second into Koombooloomba Dam on stage five. Wood came through the finish line with a giant smile on his face, having thoroughly enjoyed the race through the power-line track into Koombooloomba Dam.

Koombooloomba Dam has had both joy and sorrow for the Dream Team in years gone by. In 2003, Alberto Elli won the stage, beating overall race winner Roland Stauder - who suffered from technical problems. Two years later the Dream Team effectively lost the Crocodile Trophy due to bad luck and four punctures on the part of Mauro Bettin.

The night before the Koombooloomba stage, the Dream Team had interrupted sleep with worries that we would be out of the Crocodile Trophy once again with punctures and mechanical problems. Each one of the riders on the Dream Team carried three tubes, two canisters, a patch kit and one rider carried an extra tyre and pump. But lady luck was with the Dream Team and Darren O'Grady suffered the only puncture of the day.

Valentin Zellor spoke openly and easily at the dinner saying this was the most beautiful stage he's ever seen in a bike race. Evidence that he was not one bit fussed by the absolutely torturous stages.

After the race there was lots of discussion as to the two race leaders who went the wrong way, with consideration being given to nullifying the day's times. As Team Manager I spoke to Race Director Gerhard Schoenbacher and told him: "We can deal with things whichever way the cat jumps, but in international racing, it is the responsibility of the cyclist to know the course."

"Although this is not the way the Dream Team wants to move up on General Classification, we also recognise that we had a good day in our own right and moved up naturally."

Darren O'Grady buries himself

Better than expected

By:
Cycling News
Published:
January 27, 2007, 0:00 GMT,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:01 BST

The Dream Team loved this stage. In his best Crocodile Trophy to date Dave Wood, riding like a man...

FELT - Shimano Dream Team Diaries, October 22, 2006

Stage Six: Koombooloomba - Irvinebank, 125 km

The Dream Team loved this stage. In his best Crocodile Trophy to date Dave Wood, riding like a man possessed, pipped race leader Christophe Stevens on the line after a three hundred metre sprint. Valentin Zellor is also handling the kilometres, the terrain and even the technical sections as though it were second nature.

Zellor keeps making comments that he would like the course to be longer. His other Dream Team team-mates do not share his conviction. He is, of course, an endurance specialist and was 2004 World Champion endurance racer.

Once again, the evening was fraught with anxiety as to the up-coming stage seven, along with its challenging terrain and distance, rapidly approached. On a good note, the weather has been absolutely perfect, not wet but not hot either. The Dream Team is looking forward to trying to move up the general classification with the individuals in front of them.

Dave Wood, Darren OGrady,

Distance begins to take toll

By:
Cycling News
Published:
January 27, 2007, 0:00 GMT,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:01 BST

Being the longest stage of the Crocodile Trophy, combined with the fact that it occurs after a week...

FELT - Shimano Dream Team Diaries, October 23, 2006

Stage Seven: Irvinebank - Chillagoe, 156 km

Being the longest stage of the Crocodile Trophy, combined with the fact that it occurs after a week of hard racing, the Dream Team thought about little else than the rest day which follows stage seven.

Darren O'Grady took the 160 kilometre stage in five-kilometre segments, explaining: "that's all I could deal with. Until the 10 to go sign I didn't want anything in double digits in my head."

Valentin Zellor finished eight minutes down on race leader Christophe Stevens, which was an absolutely stellar effort from the roadie over the sandy descents and rocks. Zellor seems to be coping with the terrain and the challenges quite easily.

Wood and O'Grady stayed together today, joined by Lamont. They were all witnesses to the nasty tumble of Niek Lingier. The former Belgian downhill champion passed them downhill at 70 kilometres per hour plus. At that point Lamont said to Wood "that guy is either s**t hot or going to come unstuck". When the pair came around the corner, he had come unstuck quite badly - corking his thigh on the rocks he rolled over.

At first it appeared the Dream Team had a bit of a loss today. We had hoped to put some time into Stevens, however, looking at the results it appears we lost very little overall and we are still absolutely swinging in the team competition. The Dream Team will live to race another day!

The Dream Team will be signing the walls at the Chillagoe Pub this evening.

Author
FELT - Shimano Dream Team

What do an Australian MTB Champion, an environmental engineer and an Austrian World Champion endurance cyclist have in common? They all ride for the FELT - Shimano Dream Team. Oh, and they are crazy for tackling the world's toughest MTB endurance race - Australia's Crocodile Trophy. As Darren O'Grady, David Wood & Valentine Zeller battle through the bush from the Northern Territory into Far-North-Queensland, team manager Christi Valentine-Anderson will keep us up-to-date on the boys' progress.