By John Flynn
Czech cyclist Ondrej Fojtik achieved his life's dream Wednesday by securing his win in the Crocodile Trophy in a most emphatic fashion possible, with a victory in the penultimate stage nine from Cooktown to Daintree. Under siege from VIG+ Racing teammate Martin Horak who attacked as the race ventured past the famous "Lions Den Hotel", Fojtik was forced to prove once and for all that he was the best rider of the 2008 edition of the race.
In second place on the general classification heading into the stage, five minutes behind Fojtik, Horak won no friends with his Czech team that rallied to support the race leader in his great moment of need. Nicknamed "The Ivanator" by his rivals, Czech strongman Ivan Rybarik pulled huge turns to reel in his renegade teammate, assisted also by Tomas Trunschka.
When the moment of truth came as the race ventured upward on a 20% gradient to the legendary Creb Track, Fojtik stepped up. "I am happy that I won the stage 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."
Belgian Nic Vermeulen's legs exploded on one of the steeper climbs as the race ventured into one of its most technical sections and he finished fifth for the day. Vermeulen's loss was the gain of Australian Craig Gordon, who looks likely to end his race in fourth place on the general classification.
"That was an awesome day," Gordon said. "It was quite tactical."
In the women's event Belgian Karen Steurs (Ride For The Stars) put her foot to the floor despite already being 15 minutes ahead of Australia's Jo 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," Steurs said. "[It's my] last time of suffering. [For] six years I have been cycling and now, the end. I am only biking for fun now. This is very satisfying."
The Crocodile Trophy will conclude Thursday with a final 48km stage from Ayton to Cape Tribulation.