Around lunchtime last Thursday, 66 riders finished up the 10-day, 1200km Crocodile Trophy mountain bike stage race in Australia with a time trial ending at Cape Tribulation. The podium may have ended up the same as last year, with Urs Huber ahead of Bart Brentjens and Mike Mulkens, but the journey toward the podium was more suspenseful.
"This was the most adventurous Trophy ever, with many ups and downs," said event organiser Gerhard Schönbacher. Overshadowed by the tragic death of 59-year-old Dutch rider Weit Heuker, who passed away during his sleep due to cardiovascular and circulatory failure, the race seemed plagued by all kinds of occurences that challenged the organizing crew's ability to improvise. There were course changes and a re-start due to a mudslide and high water levels in rivers and damaged support vehicles... just to name a few incidents.
However, it may have been the most challenging edition of the race to date. "Considering the quality of riders in the lead bunch, this was probably the best Trophy of all times," said Schönbacher. In total, there were six different stage winners.
Huber walked away with his second consecutive Croc Trophy overall title. "I am over the moon to have won the Trophy for the second time," said Huber. "After a long season with lots of highs and lows, this finish makes up for everything."
Huber gained the lead during stage 1 and controlled the race from the front. By the final time trial, the 25-year-old Stöckli team rider had won with an advantage of 5:17. Huber raced this year without a personal support team, but said he had no regrets about sleeping in a tent and doing all the preparatory and wrenching by himself, from washing the bike to preparing his bottles in the morning. "Of course it is a lot of work. But I think, this way it suits the spirit of the Trophy even better."
Brentjens was enthusiastic about his second attempt at the Croc Trophy. "Unfortunately I lost the race on the first day due to a bonk, but overall, it was a great competition, and Urs deserves his victory," said the former Olympic and World Champion, who claimed three stage wins this year.
Asked whether he would compete a third time, the 42-year-old Brentjens, a father of two, said it will depend on his family. Mike Mulkens also answered similarly. After defending his third spot from last year, Mulkens said he is looking forward to a few quiet weeks with his girlfriend.
McLennan wins all
The female category was dominated by Abby McLennan, who claimed the title. She won all nine stages and gained an overall lead of seven hours and 53 minutes over Lauretta Howarth and Nancy Carceres. For the Australian rider, it was a dream come true after she had been talked into participating again by her husband Scott.
"Every day I gave my best and tried to stick to fast riding bunches, so that my teammates wouldn't have to work so hard all the time. But now we all deserve a break, and then I'll see what lies ahead," said the 30-year old, who doesn't have any particular future athletic plans.
Estonians dominate team classification
Spearheaded by multiple Tour de France stage winner Jaan Kirsipuu, three riders from Estonia claimed the race's team ranking. Both Kirsipuu as well as his teammate Allan Oras will travel home with a boomerang for their stage wins at the Crocodile Trophy; the Estonian superstar additionally led the field of the overall masters classification from the first until the last day.
The two E-bike racers, Udo Huber and Klaus Sever, were both content with their races. The former was happy to finish a few hard stages and plans to return for his 60th birthday with a non-electric bike. The latter was happy to finish the race for the second time. "The duel with Udo was fun. Now it would be interesting to see, if with a little bit of training it wasn't possible to win a stage on such a bike..." said a speculating Sever.
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the 2010 Crocodile Trophy.