Crocodile Trophy: Grick, Dufoer take stage 5 wins in Skybury

Huber and White maintain their overall leads with three stages remaining

Crocodile Trophy Stage 5 from Irvinebank to Skybury was a fast and furious 95km marathon race that resulted in two new names on the top step of the elite category podiums. Austrian Matthias Grick won the sprint finish in the men's, and Belgian ex-pro road racer Sjoukje Dufoer won the women's.

There were no change overall, Urs Huber kept a narrow 1:10 lead ahead of fellow Swiss racer Konny Looser, while Australian Sarah White increased her lead over Lucy Coldwell to 11:25.

The first section of stage 5 led the peloton across the historic mining region of Stannary Hill, and the racers had to deal with extremely rough conditions, big rocks and ruts on the track.

Stage 5 had been regarded as the first ‘easy’ stage, and of the race today’s fourth, Soren Nissen said, “We all thought that it would be a relaxed race, however, Urs Huber set a very high pace from the start.”

A lead group of four quickly formed: Grick, Huber, Looser and Nissen worked together all day and had “wanted to reach the finish as quickly as possible," Nissen continued. “I tried to attack, but couldn’t break away," he explained and added that he had underestimated the Swiss riders’ strength and that it had been difficult backing up a very busy European racing season with a tough race like the Crocodile Trophy.

“Orginally the Croc was my big goal for this year and to fight for the overall win, but I have competed at so many events, I’m just not strong enough this year," Nissen concluded.

In the end, it was Grick who managed to get a gap and win the stage in a sprint finish.

“To win a stage at the Crocodile Trophy has always been my dream," said the 27-year-old, who is competing for the second time this year and will claim his first boomerang at tonight’s stage winners’ ceremony. He said that it had been extremely hard and every stage so far had been brutal.

“Today everything went to plan. I knew I had to ride well in the beginning and get through the rough sections," he explained and that he was very content with how his equipment by the Austrian manufacturer KTM had held up in the extreme conditions this year. “The Crocodile Trophy is an equipment battle, everything needs to perfectly fit, like a clockwork," he concluded.

Huber keeps lead, says race will be defensive to the finish

Recovering from stage 5 at Skybury Coffee Plantation, Huber said that he enjoyed the landscapes and that he did notice his surrounds while racing. When Huber is not racing, he is working on his parent's apple orchard in Switzerland and said that it was interesting for him to observe setting of the coffee and tropical fruit plantation at Skybury.

Of the remaining three stages, he said that he would race "defensively, keeping a very close eye" on second overall, fellow Swiss racer Looser.

"I think the hardest stages are behind us now and tomorrow's stage is probably one more chance for an attack, however, Konny and I seem to be racing a bit stronger than the rest of the field, so a solo attack will be very difficult for him," Huber said.

Overall, the top three men’s standings remain unchanged. Huber leads Looser by 1:10 and Nissen by 47:10. Grick is still in fourth at 1:24:30 back, and the Czech rider Milan Damek is in fifth at 2:15:59. Philipp Wetzelberger injured his knee and is out of the race.

Belgian ex-road pro wins stage on honeymoon

The second half of the stage was predominantly flat, and in the women's it was the Belgian Sjoukje Dufoer who took advantage of her past as a pro road cyclist. After a very successful road racing career, including finishing in 10th in the Tour de Flanders, the 31-year-old said that now she was looking for more of an adventure on the bike.

From the day they had met she and new husband, fellow elite racer Tom Vandenbussche, had picked the Crocodile Trophy as one of their adventures together.

"When we first met one of the first cycling topics that came up was the Crocodile Trophy and I said to Tom, 'Would you do the Croc with me?' and the rest is history," she said today after finishing 5:31 ahead of Sarah White and Lucy Coldwell, who was 15:03 in arrears.

She had been surprised to be in front of her fellow elite women right from the start and had suddenly felt ambitious.

"I wasn't even trying in the beginning, but I realised that I was in front and then the elevation profile just really suited me," Dufoer explained. “This is an incredible experience - we live in an area in Belgium that is completely flat, so the first few stages were really tough," she said of her race so far and that they would stay in Australia for bit longer after the event and travel around.

Overall, the local contender and 2015 Croc winner Sarah White increased her lead to 11:25 ahead of Lucy Coldwell with three days to go.

Thursday's stage will the longest on this year’s stage plan, a 127km circuit race via the recently established luxury resort, Mount Mulligan Lodge.

“We are very thankful to have permission to pass through the Mount Mulligan Lodge property, and we will also reach very remote areas in the Outback tomorrow past the historic Tyrconnel gold mine and Kingsburough towards the end," said track coordinator and General Manager, Koenraad Vanschoren. “This could, with only 50 km to go, be the perfect section for an attack," he added.

Stage 5 Results

Elite Men
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Matthias Grick (Aus)3:23:30 
2Urs Huber (Swi)0:00:05 
3Konny Looser (Swi)  
4Sören Nissen (Lux)0:00:08 
5Milan Damek (Cze)0:12:33 
6Leander Hamelink (Ned)0:24:48 
7Tom Vandenbussche (Bel)0:35:59 
Elite Women
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Sjoukje Dufoer (Bel)3:59:21 
2Sarah White (Aus)0:05:32 
3Lucy Coldwell (Aus)0:15:03 

General Classification after stage 5

Elite Men
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Urs Huber (Swi)17:42:02 
2Konny Looser (Swi)0:01:10 
3Sören Nissen (Lux)0:47:10 
4Matthias Grick (Aus)1:24:30 
5Milan Damek (Cze)2:15:59 
6Leander Hamelink (Ned)3:34:11 
7Tom Vandenbussche (Bel)6:03:26 
Elite Women
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Sarah White (Aus)23:51:20 
2Lucy Coldwell (Aus)0:11:25 
3Sjoukje Dufoer (Bel)4:09:47 

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