Dramatic Crocodile Trophy stage neutralized

Bushfire, medical emergency, lost racers make eventful day

Australia's Outback dished out an eventful day for racers and organizers for stage three of the Crocodile Trophy. Flat tires, medical emergencies, bushfires and lost racers were on the menu for what was supposed to be a 131km stage from Granite Gorge to Irvinebank.

Perhaps the person with the least bad luck was Monique Zeldenrust of the Netherlands, though the race leader might not have thought so at the time. At just 15km, she flatted after gouging a sidewall. A lengthy repair followed and the Dutchwoman thought her lead was history.

Dutch racer Willemjan Hopstaken had his own woes five kilometers later when a severe crash caused him to begin suffering seizures. Fortunately, for him two racers for team Jungle Patrol Wilderness Medicine were close behind, and Doctor Andrew Graham and nurse Sharman Parr were soon on hand to administer emergency medical treatment that prevented a potentially life-threatening situation. Hopstaken went then sent to a hospital for treatment of what organizers termed a severe concussion.

While Zeldenrust was busy with her tyre and Hopstaken was getting medical treatment, the 11 riders in the lead race group were busy getting lost after they missed a turn and ventured off-course, into the inhospitable wilderness of the Australian Outback. Race leader Urs Huber, former World and Olympic Champion Bart Brentjens and Croc Trophy stage winner Jure Robic were among them.

After 25km of misguided racing, three locals from Australia's Tropical Tableland Discovery team were able to guide the group to safety. AIsaac Tonello eventually followed the route used in the 2008 Crocodile Trophy to get everyone to the finish in Irvinebank.

Fortunately for just about everyone, yet another strange event occured, a bushfire. Police and rural fire service volunteers exercised emergency powers and intervened to shut down the race, effectively bringing stage three to a premature end.

The race judiciary later decided to nullify the stage, meaning the results after stage two will be carried into tomorrow's fourth stage. That means that despite the mechanicals and getting lost, Zeldenrust and Huber will keep their roles as race leaders going along 157km from Irvinebank to Chillagoe.

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