Dutchman Bart Brentjens launched a determined assault on the race leader's jersey of Swiss cyclist Urs Huber and in the process claimed his fourth stage victory as the Crocodile Trophy reached Mount Mulgrave Station.
The former World and Olympic champion chose the perfect moment to attack on a stage littered with seemingly never-ending obstacles, including stony creek crossings, deep sand patches and blinding bulldust.
Brentjens and Huber were part of a four-man lead group, that also contained Belgian Mike Mulkens and Australian Josh Prete. The quartet held together until hitting deep sand at the 100 kilometre mark.
"I saved as much energy as I could until the big river crossing that everybody was afraid of," Brentjens said after one of the toughest victories of his career. "It was like 5 kilometres of really deep sand before the crossing and everybody was struggling a little bit."
Brentjens attacked Huber in the stony, dry river bed of the Mitchell River. Its a crossing Crocodile Trophy competitors in previous years have had to swim across.
"Nobody got away until the last few hundred metres through the river where there were some walking parts, big rocks, stones, but no water anymore," Brentjens said. "On the other side, we had to climb up out of the river, and I got a gap."
The Trek-Bart Brentjens team owner continued at full gas, hoping to peg back the margin of almost two minutes between himself and Huber in the general classification.
Ten kilometres out from the finish, with the gap between himself and Huber growing, the Dutchman appeared to have the on-course lead. That was until "the man with the hammer", whose presence at the Crocodile Trophy is feared, hit Brentjens from above.
"I gave everything I had for 25 kilometres. At the beginning it was really good, I had power, but I died the last 5 kilometres," Brentjens admitted. "The man with the hammer came down, I was totally black, my feet were burning and my head, I couldn't see anything.
"I was so lucky that I saw the finish and I had a small gap, but he's (Huber) a tough guy."
Huber finished the marathon 137-kilometre stage clearly the fresher of the two main contenders for overall. He also managed to limit the damage inflicted by Brentjens to around 40 seconds, with the time gap between himself and the Dutchman standing at one minute and six seconds.
"Yes, today it was not the high temperatures that were the problem. My problem was the sand, Brentjens is very strong in the sand," Huber said post-stage.
"Thirty kilometres before the finish, he attacked and came in front. It did not look good for me but the last 10 kilometres, I came nearer to him."
Belgian Mike Mulkens produced his best ride yet at the 2009 Crocodile Trophy to claim third for the stage and third place in the overall classification. In the process, he managed to unseat Jure Robic from the top three after the Slovenian appeared to struggle with today's savage pace.
"From the start I had good legs today," Mulkens said. "The hills came and the deep sand, from my personal perspective, I rode better through the sand.
The Belgian held on with the leaders as long as he could, but the pace of Brentjens, combined with the heat proved too much.
"Brentjens, he is like a scooter," Mulkens said. "And it was so hot today, I kept pouring bidons over my head to cool down."
Australia's Josh Prete of the Tropical Tableland Discovery Team managed to put yesterday's flat tyre disaster behind him to produce arguably his best ride yet at the Crocodile Trophy.
The teenager finished fourth on today's stage and managed to hang onto the Brentjens group until the soft sand before the Mitchell River crossing.
"Yeah it was good, but a super hard day through the tight technical rocky crossings," Prete said. "I was suffering heaps, wasn't able to get the right gears and through the sand it hurt so much, today's stage was unbelievable."
Prete's Tropical Tableland Discovery teammates Isaac Tonello and Steve Rankine finished eighth and ninth today.
It was an impressive all-around team effort, but still not enough to haul in the lead of the Coopers Dream Team, led by Germany's former Tour de France rider Kai Hundertmark.
McLennan Wins Mount Mulgrave Stage
Six days of hard slogging at the Crocodile Trophy were finally rewarded today for Australia's Abby McLennan, who achieved what she had always wanted from this race: To earn one of the boomerangs awarded to the stage winners.
After battling an intestinal ailment for two days, the leader of the Rattle & Hum team found her best form and was the only woman in the field to hang onto the leader's group until the first checkpoint.
McLennan ran into some on-course dramas from there, with husband Scott, one of her two team helpers, puncturing just after the feed zone.
She also punctured, but borrowed a wheel from teammate James Banner-Smith as she ploughed on alone. She was later joined by women's race leader Monique Zeldenrust, who decided to back off slightly today with sizeable race lead still intact.
In a sporting gesture, Zeldenrust offered the stage to McLennan, who had shared the effort on one of the Trophy's toughest journeys.
"I can't believe it, it's a dream come true, Monique is such a good sport and she rewarded me for working hard, so it's really good, I'm just lost for words," McLennan said. "I felt good today I was strong but I had a few issues with flat tyres and James [Banner-Smith] got me going again."
Rescue Doctor Undergoes Surgery
In a bizarre twist, the doctor responsible for administering emergency first aid to the Dutch competitor who suffered seizures earlier this week today found himself on the operating table after suffering a head injury.
Doctor Andrew Graham, who is racing the Crocodile Trophy with the Jungle Patrol Wilderness Medicine Team, hit the deck early in today's stage. When he came around, the first person on scene to help was Dutchman Willemjan Hopstaken, the man he saved from a potentially life threatening concussion just three days ago.
Graham struggled on through the stage and needed stitches from the race doctor as the sun set over Mount Mulgrave Station. It's sure to be the beginning of a lifelong friendship for Hopstaken and Graham, provide the two can remain upright for the remainder of the race.
|1||Bart Brentjens (Ned) Trek-Brentjens Mtb racing team||4:21:09|
|2||Urs Huber (Swi) Team Stöckli-Craft||0:00:41|
|3||Mike Mulkens (Bel)||0:06:23|
|4||Josh Prete (Aus) Tropical Tablelands Discovery||0:13:19|
|5||Kai Hundertmark (Ger) Dream Team||0:14:31|
|6||Steve Rankine (Aus) Tropical Tablelands Discovery||0:17:26|
|7||Jurij Robic (Slo) Matej & Jure||0:19:33|
|8||Tomas Kozak (Cze) Di-ELCOM-Outdoor sports club||0:26:41|
|9||Shane Taylor (Aus)||0:46:51|
|10||Daris Zubani (Ita) NEVIPROGETTOAVVENTURA||0:48:07|
|11||Morten Larsen (Den) Team Sun-Print||0:55:17|
|12||Ivan Negro (Ita) NEVIPROGETTOAVVENTURA||1:07:27|
|13||James Banner-Smith (Aus) Rattle N Hum||1:08:30|
|14||Christoph Kirchmeier (Aut)||1:21:07|
|1||Abby McLennan (Aus) Rattle N Hum||5:20:12|
|2||Monique Zeldenrust (Ned)||0:00:01|
|3||Lisa Pleyer (Aut) Roadbike Holidays - KTM||0:28:12|
|4||Eva Hasek (Cze) Outdoor sports club||1:24:58|
|5||Sharman Parr (Aus) jungle patrol; wilderness medicine||2:12:05|
|1||Isaac Tonello (Aus)||4:38:35|
|2||Alexander Valdiek (Ger) JRV Team Deutsche Sepsisgesellschaft||0:14:27|
|3||Glen De Bont (Bel) Shifting Gears||0:15:47|
|4||Nikolaus Syc (Ger)||0:20:05|
|5||Raimund Burböck (Aut)||0:26:15|
|6||Franz Preihs (Aut) Radsport Kotnik-Focus||0:27:53|
|7||Sam Nathan (Aus) Team Nathan||0:35:17|
|8||Per Imer (Den) Team Sun-Print||0:40:46|
|9||Ron Whitehead (Aus) Ron Whitehead||0:43:16|
|10||Dennis Bergen (Den) Team Sun-Print||0:57:15|
|11||Sam Brovender (Can) Team SDC Chris Nicholson||0:57:16|
|1||Branko Grah (Aut) Team RC Sereno||4:35:45|
|2||Milan Spolc (Cze) Dream Team||0:00:10|
|3||Günter Weichbold (Aut)||0:22:17|
|4||Erich Reith (Aut)||0:22:18|
|5||Frederik Zierke (Ger) Dream Team||0:39:36|
|6||Pieter van Rooyen (Rsa) Team Van Rooyen||0:43:46|
|7||Chris Nicholson (Aus) Team SDC Chris Nicholson||0:46:06|
|8||Pio Tomasetig (Ita) Team Tomesetig|
|9||Scott McLennan (Aus) Rattle N Hum||0:53:54|
|10||Josef Neururer (Swi) Velolade-Hittnau.ch||1:00:06|
|11||Rudolf Hansgut (Cze)||1:10:49|
|12||Kees Zuidhoek (Ned) Team Kees Fietsshop|
|13||Yvan Vekemans (Bel) Belgian Power/Granville||1:11:47|
|14||Jörg Steenbock (Ger) WINGSforLife.com||1:20:39|
|15||Marten Zeldenrust (Ned)||1:21:22|
|16||Mohammed Boufessile (Bel) Belgian Power/Granville||2:05:21|
|17||Geert Matthijs (Bel) Team Matthys|
|18||Bernhard Weixelbaum (Aut) Team RC Sereno||2:12:16|
|19||Willemjan Hopstaken (Ned) Team Kees Fietsshop||2:34:39|
|20||Aaron Pickett-Heaps (Aus)|
|21||Hennie Schoonheim (Ned)||2:55:21|
|22||Paul van Hattem (Ned) Team Kees Fietsshop||2:56:32|
|23||Theo Molenbrugge (Ned) Theo Molenbrugge|
|24||Greg Parr (Aus) jungle patrol; wilderness medicine|
|25||Andrew Graham (Aus) jungle patrol; wilderness medicine|
|26||Erwin Klocker (Aus)||3:44:13|
|27||Heinz von Holzen (Swi)|
|28||Erik Stokman (Ned)|
|29||Jan van Baast (Ned)|
|30||Chris Neal (Aus)||3:47:01|
|1||Klaus Sever (Aut) Radsport Weichberger BionX||7:37:10|
|DNF||Jesse Hovestreijdt (Ned)|
|DNF||Philipp Herzog (Aus)|
|DNF||Günter Rafeiner (Aut)|
|1||Bart Brentjens (Ned)||20||pts|
|2||Urs Huber (Swi)||15|
|3||Mike Mulkens (Bel)||10|
|4||Josh Prete (Aus)||5|
|5||Kai Hundertmark (Ger)||2|
|1||Tropical Tablelands Discovery||13:51:38|
|4||Rattle N Hum||2:27:52|
|5||Team Kees Fietsshop||6:37:37|
|6||Jungle patrol; Wilderness medicine||8:45:13|
|1||Urs Huber (Swi) Team Stöckli-Craft||19:33:46|
|2||Bart Brentjens (Ned) Trek-Brentjens mtb racing team||0:01:06|
|3||Mike Mulkens (Bel)||1:02:07|
|4||Jurij Robic (Slo) Matej & Jure||1:13:59|
|5||Tomas Kozak (Cze) Di-ELCOM-Outdoor sports club||1:29:32|
|6||Kai Hundertmark (Ger) Dream Team||2:12:00|
|7||Steve Rankine (Aus) Tropical Tablelands Discovery||2:25:03|
|8||Josh Prete (Aus) Tropical Tablelands Discovery||3:16:32|
|9||Shane Taylor (Aus)||3:17:55|
|10||Daris Zubani (Ita) NEVIPROGETTOAVVENTURA||3:26:31|
|11||Ivan Negro (Ita) NEVIPROGETTOAVVENTURA||4:34:52|
|12||Morten Larsen (Den) Team Sun-Print||4:43:51|
|13||James Banner-Smith (Aus) Rattle N Hum||6:15:44|
|14||Christoph Kirchmeier (Aut)||6:38:24|
|1||Monique Zeldenrust (Ned)||23:51:11|
|2||Lisa Pleyer (Aut) Roadbike Holidays - KTM||1:23:52|
|3||Abby McLennan (Aus) Rattle N Hum||1:32:16|
|4||Eva Hasek (Cze) Outdoor sports club||5:11:21|
|5||Sharman Parr (Aus) jungle patrol; wilderness medicine||9:28:00|
|1||Isaac Tonello (Aus)||21:49:36|
|2||Alexander Valdiek (Ger) JRV Team Deutsche Sepsisgesellschaft||0:18:39|
|3||Nikolaus Syc (Ger)||0:25:35|
|4||Raimund Burböck (Aut)||0:35:02|
|5||Franz Preihs (Aut) Radsport Kotnik-Focus||0:58:04|
|6||Glen De Bont (Bel) Shifting Gears||1:04:36|
|7||Sam Nathan (Aus) Team Nathan||1:19:55|
|8||Per Imer (Den) Team Sun-Print||3:07:50|
|9||Sam Brovender (Can) Team SDC Chris Nicholson||3:49:19|
|10||Dennis Bergen (Den) Team Sun-Print||3:49:38|
|11||Ron Whitehead (Aus) Ron Whitehead||3:56:11|
|1||Milan Spolc (Cze) Dream Team||21:27:29|
|2||Branko Grah (Aut) Team RC Sereno||0:27:27|
|3||Erich Reith (Aut)||1:20:03|
|4||Günter Weichbold (Aut)||1:25:32|
|5||Frederik Zierke (Ger) Dream Team||1:42:50|
|6||Pieter van Rooyen SAF Team Van Rooyen||3:00:21|
|7||Josef Neururer (Swi) Velolade-Hittnau.ch||3:49:39|
|8||Chris Nicholson (Aus) Team SDC Chris Nicholson||3:58:26|
|9||Pio Tomasetig (Ita) Team Tomesetig||3:59:26|
|10||Yvan Vekemans (Bel) Belgian Power/Granville||4:04:31|
|11||Scott McLennan (Aus) Rattle N Hum||4:07:25|
|12||Kees Zuidhoek (Ned) Team Kees Fietsshop||4:37:59|
|13||Rudolf Hansgut (Cze)||5:26:28|
|14||Mohammed Boufessile (Bel) Belgian Power/Granville||5:37:18|
|15||Jörg Steenbock (Ger) WINGSforLife.com||5:57:22|
|16||Geert Matthijs (Bel) Team Matthys||6:01:18|
|17||Bernhard Weixelbaum (Aut) Team RC Sereno||6:09:34|
|18||Marten Zeldenrust (Ned)||6:15:17|
|19||Theo Molenbrugge (Ned) Theo Molenbrugge||7:39:42|
|20||Hennie Schoonheim (Ned)||9:12:38|
|21||Aaron Pickett-Heaps (Aus)||9:15:18|
|22||Andrew Graham (Aus) jungle patrol; wilderness medicine||9:25:17|
|23||Paul van Hattem (Ned) Team Kees Fietsshop||9:28:15|
|24||Willemjan Hopstaken (Ned) Team Kees Fietsshop||9:35:53|
|25||Greg Parr (Aus) jungle patrol; wilderness medicine||10:43:09|
|26||Heinz von Holzen (Swi)||12:01:38|
|27||Erwin Klocker (Aus)||12:03:07|
|28||Jan van Baast (Ned)||12:52:05|
|29||Erik Stokman (Ned)||13:27:58|
|30||Chris Neal (Aus)||13:32:22|
|1||Bart Brentjens (Ned)||95||pts|
|2||Urs Huber (Swi)||80|
|3||Jurij Robic (Slo)||32|
|4||Mike Mulkens (Bel)||27|
|5||Josh Prete (Aus)||12|
|6||Tomas Kozak (Cze)||10|
|7||Steve Rankine (Aus)||2|
|7||Kai Hundertmark (Ger)||2|
|2||Tropical Tablelands Discovery||0:15:09|
|4||Rattle N Hum||10:24:17|
|5||Team Kees Fietsshop||21:41:00|
|6||Jungle patrol; Wilderness medicine||29:59:01|