Neil Van der Ploeg won today's stage of the Tour de Timor to consolidate his overall lead, finishing the 67.9km test in 2:47:55 to average 26.4km/h. Mark Frendo finished 1:04 behind his coutryman as the previous day's winner, Benjamin Grieve-Johnson, took third.
Two hundred and sixty eight riders finished yesterday's stage and today set out from the beaches of Betano into the Cabliki mountain range. The horror ascent combined with thin atmosphere at the top of the 1835-metre peak to push the field to the limit. And then there was the murderous winding descent down into Maubisse - a partly-sealed road with hidden stretches of gravel that saw riders travelling at up to 70 kph needing to stop quickly. Many failed!
The mountain - dubbed 'Horta's Heartbreak Hill' by riders - and the subsequent steep descent into Maubisse in central Timor-Leste, claimed many victims. Frendo said the climb was the hardest he had ever done while one rider had to run the last seven kilometres carrying his bike in bare feet after puncturing on the run to the finish. He crossed the line holding his bike above his head.
Tory Thomas today cemented her position as the first female rider of the tour. Thomas finished in 3:34:00. The 20-year-old Australian said she will definitely be returning for next year's race. "I cannot believe the welcome we have received," she said, "It has been amazing."
Four riders are tomorrow expected to battle it out for the win in the inaugural Tour de Timor following today's strenuous stage. Thousands of spectators are likely to be treated to a spectacular sprint to the finish line at the Presidential Palace in Dili.
Tomorrow's final stage from Maubisse to Dili is 92.5km and features extreme descents where riders will exceed 70km/h but suddenly face gravel and potholes. Even the slightest lack of concentration by the leaders could end their hopes of victory.
|1||Neil Van der Ploeg (Aus) MAD DOGS||2:47:55|
|2||Mark Frendo (Aus) Shortis Cycle and Tri||0:01:04|
|3||Benjamin Grieve-Johnson (Aus) Praties Cycling|