Sokoll wins stage one year after billabong crash

Boelen retains lead after a day of road tactics

Christoph Sokoll made a name for himself in cycling by riding 190km at the front as a first-year elite rider during the 2009 Mendrisio Road World Championship, which was won by Cadel Evans. Now the mountain bikers know him, too, after his stage 7 win at the Crocodile Trophy.

In contrast, it was a most unfortunate day for Belgian Mike Mulkens, who has been trying for three years to claim a stage win at the Crocodile Trophy. With 1km to go to today's finish in Laura, he punctured while in the lead with Sokoll, who was thought to be slower in the sprint. Dutchman Jeroen Boelen kept his red leader's jersey, but lost some precious seconds to challenger and former race leader Urs Huber.

"This is a very special victory for me," said Sokoll. "Exactly on this stage last year, I crashed and broke three ribs and a collarbone. Despite that, I managed to finish the stage at the time, but it was the hardest the day in my life. When we passed that infamous billabong where I crashed today, I felt already better having survived that creek crossing. In the mean time, I was also riding in the front. The whole day I felt really strong."

Sokoll made part of an early break consisting of his compatriot René Haselbacher, Australian Mark Griffin and the Belgians Mike Mulkens and Kevin Hulsmans. Those five would stay in the front for the entire stage.

The road from Mt Mulgrave to Laura was long but not too demanding. The road riders had an advantage. And it would become a tactical road race with riders pretending, riders faking and riders seeking for allies. The peloton didn't seem to be worried about the breakaway as it gained a maximum of five minutes.

Even Wolfgang Krenn, who saw his third overall place in jeopardy, did not panic. "I had confidence that they would never get more of an advantage. We kept the pace in the peloton (of 22 riders) at a good level but not too high. They would have never surprised us."

"That's correct," said race leader Boelen. "We kept everything under control. It was like in a road race where the leader of the race gives a breakaway a go. If some others in my group wanted a stage victory, they needed to cooperate with me. They didn't, so the break managed to stay in the front."

The only problem was that there was no real harmony in the front group. The presence of two Austrians and two Belgians lead to rivalry and discussions. "There were a lot of discussions," said Griffin. The Australian was a bit of a surprise in the break.

"The other riders were not so happy with the behaviour of Mike Mulkens. Mulkens was complaining the whole time that he was not strong enough to cooperate and that he had some problems with the valve of his tube."

Griffin was happy just to be in the front. The Sydney rider, who has been hanging all week around 10th and 11th place, arrived by coincidence at the Crocodile Trophy. He was the best rider in a series of Australian events by Rocky Trail Entertainment, which is supported by Bernard Beer, one of the Crocodile Trophy sponsors, and he won an entry ticket for the 1200 kilometer adventure through North Queensland.

"I won't complain. I didn't want to finish the Crocodile Trophy without having given it a go. Today I did. I also had in mind to eventually take that leader's jersey in the masters category. Unfortunately the stage was 20km too long for me. The corrugations and the headwind were too much for me. On the other hand, I trained for this race. My Ashfield Cycles Team and I completed a seven-month training program. I also watched all Tour de France stages on my home trainer. That delivered."

It wasn't just the distance that made the race too hard for Griffin. The Sydney rider was not used to the road riders' behaviour in the front. "Mulkens said he had a flat tyre," said Hulsmans. "For 20km, he did not work with us. I was irritated, also as I expected him to have made an agreement with the Austrians. That's why I attacked."

With less than 30km to go, Hulsmans attacked. Griffin dropped and Hulsmans was able to take one minute. Now Mulkens had to chase. Together with Sokoll and Haselbacher, he did. They came closer and closer. After 12km chasing, they caught the Belgian rider. "Kevin went too early", said Haselbacher. "And indeed there was no cohesion in the front. I always said to the others to keep on going. Today was really like a Paris-Roubaix stage. Relatively flat but hard, and you just needed to keep on going."

"Too hard on those corrugated, Bois de Wallers roads indeed," said Hulsmans afterwards. "But it was nice. Dust, mud, sand, this is heroic cycling. I played the game, but I lost. This is no UCI race, but everybody starts here to win. It is hard, but I will try again. Maybe again tomorrow."

Only Mulkens and Sokoll were left in the game at the 10km to go mark as Haselbacher paid for his efforts. Sokoll and Mulkens went into the last kilometer and a small climb. And then Mulkens just stepped off his bike with a flat rear tyre. Instead of continuing on his punctured wheel, he stopped, put some air in the tube, but Sokoll was of course gone in the meantime.

"Honestly, I think I had also more power in my legs than Mulkens at that moment," said Sokoll. And that could be right as Mulkens, with only 500 meters to go, and sure of a second place in the stage, stopped again. He ripped off his shirt and went off the road. Just sitting, just deeply breathing or was it crying? The two-time third overall in the Crocodile Trophy would again not be able to claim a stage at the Crocodile Trophy.

"I was 'done'. I could not handle my handlebars anymore. I was empty. I don't know how a heart attack feels, but I was really scared," said Mulkens, who finally went over the finsh line 11:36 later than Sokoll. It was drama for the Belgian rider. "Of course, I could have won here in Laura."

In the end, the peloton with Huber and Boelen came close, and Huber even managed to take 16 seconds back on Boelen. "I knew that last sharp corner from last year," said Huber. "Many riders crashed there in the gravel. I took care to take that corner as first rider, which was good as Jeroen Boelen crashed behind me. I don't give up on the overall. Every second counts."

For Boelen, there were no major injuries, just some bruises and road rash on his left leg.

The happiest man in Laura today was stage winner Sokoll, a third-year elite road rider. After his Mendrisio raid, Bernard Eisel's training mate got an offer from Footon-Servetto but stuck with the Austrian Corratec-Vorarlberg Team. For 2012, he has an agreement with Tyrol Team, a continental team. "Mountain biking is no priority for me. Before this race, I was on the mountain bike only three times. Maybe I should do this more often, but then, like most of the favourites here, also with 29-inch wheels."

Tommorrow's stage will bring 89km from Laura to Kalpowar. It will be without the two heroic handbikers who arrived at the Crocodile Trophy camp after 18 hours on their bikes yesterday. This morning, they were not able to start in today's stage, due to heat stroke and fever cramps suffered by Patrik Doak and an open skin wound for Carlos Moleda, who was sitting on a stone while cycling for hours during yesterday's stage. Their teammate and supporter Andrew Chafer on a mountain bike will continue and finish the Crocodile Trophy and will be welcomed by Patrik and Carlos at Cooktown's Grassy Hill.

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Full Results

Men stage 7
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Christoph Sokoll (Aut)5:24:05 
2Urs Huber (Swi) Stöckli Pro Team0:01:23 
3Jeroen Boelen (Ned) Milka-Trek0:01:39 
4Wolfgang Krenn (Aut)0:01:40 
5Geeni Yong Choi (Kor) Team Korea  
6Justin Morris (Aus) Subaru/MarathonMTB.com0:02:28 
7Josef Benedseder (Aut)0:02:56 
8Mike Mulkens (Bel) Kipeo MTB Team0:11:36 
9Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Darrell Lee-Donckers Koffie Cycling 10:15:57 
10Bruno Naessens (Bel)0:29:55 
11Samuel McGregor (Aus) The Fitzroy Revolution0:33:37 
12Ondrej Slezak (Cze) Bernard Rocky Trail Racing0:41:52 
13Huub Duyn (Bel) Darrell Lee-Donckers Koffie Cycling 10:48:12 
14Roeland Suys (Bel) Kipeo MTB Team  
15Sam Van De Gucht (Bel)1:02:42 
16Sander Van Schuerbeeck (Bel)1:03:19 
17Chris Hellman (Aus)1:15:29 
18Bram Donckers (Bel) Darrell Lee-Donckers Koffie Cycling 13:12:16 
Women stage 7
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Jessica Douglas (Aus)6:46:41 
2Sharman Parr (NZl) kickass2:18:17 
M1 stage 7
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Arnott Graeme (Aus) Subaru/MarathonMTB.com5:26:16 
2Gert Maes (Bel) Den Outback 4bikes croc team 20110:00:17 
3Jan Verboven (Bel) Den Outback 4bikes croc team 20110:00:45 
4Mark Griffin (Aus) Ashfield Cycles & Rockytrail0:02:20 
5René Haselbacher (Aut)0:06:19 
6Michal Lanik (Cze)0:14:13 
7Mike Blewitt (Aus) Subaru/MarathonMTB.com  
8Ashley Hayat (Aus) The Fitzroy Revolution0:25:59 
9Steve Petre (Aus)0:27:42 
10Tim Schepens (Bel) Den Outback 4bikes croc0:48:12 
11Ki Joong Kim (Kor) Team Korea  
12Michal Kafka (Aus) Bernard Rocky Trail Racing1:03:09 
13Peter Roelens (Bel)1:09:43 
14Matthias Schwarze (Ger) The Fitzroy Revolution1:20:25 
15Martin Wisata (Aut) Bernard Rocky Trail Racing1:40:59 
16Dirk Hörnig (Ger)1:53:56 
17Laurent Tesch (Bel)2:06:40 
18Frederic Starck (Bel)  
19Werner Van Vuuren (Aus)2:10:14 
20Michael Taylor (Aus)2:10:15 
21Andreas Buchegger (Aut)2:14:38 
22Christophe Demeyere (Bel)2:21:08 
23Nicola Gianfranceschi (Ita)2:35:19 
M2 stage 7
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Marc Baechli (Swi)5:26:48 
2Brad Davies (Aus)0:01:58 
3Carl Maroney (Aus)0:13:41 
4Shaun Portegys (NZl)0:14:41 
5Baelen Guy Van (Bel) Den Outback 4bikes croc0:59:59 
6Patrick Mensch (Bel) Den Outback 4bikes croc team 20111:00:00 
7Aloyse Albert Schartz (Lux)1:00:24 
8Christiaan Van Splunter (Ned) Silvis en Vos1:03:56 
9Johan Van Splunter (Ned) Silvis en Vos  
10Thomas Holmberg (Den)1:13:10 
11Stéphane Maitrejean (Bel)2:06:08 
12Blair King (NZl)2:08:19 
13Andrew Chafer (USA) Team Van Be Venture2:09:44 
14John Boswell (Aus)2:21:02 
15Gianni Banterla (Ita)2:34:46 
16Rien Montsma (Ned) Silvis en Vos 22:36:03 
17Jeroen Tiebie (Ned) Silvis en Vos  
M3 stage 7
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Pio Tomasetig (Ita) Danieli Team6:39:01 
2Gerhard Grasmugg (Aut)0:14:56 
3Andreas Wittmann (Ger)0:57:32 
4Andrew Radcliffe (Aus)  
5Greg Parr (Aus) kickass2:25:57 
Tandem stage 7
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Doris Ermens & Lieven Straetmans (Bel)6:26:15 
2Daniele Modolo & Sebastian Favaro (Ita) Il Tandem Italia0:45:36 
Points
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Christoph Sokoll (Aut)20 pts
2Urs Huber (Swi) Stöckli Pro Team15 
3Jeroen Boelen (Ned) Milka-Trek10 
4Wolfgang Krenn (Aut)5 
5Geeni Yong Choi (Kor) Team Korea2 
Men general classification after stage 7
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Jeroen Boelen (Ned) Milka-Trek23:48:32 
2Urs Huber (Swi) Stöckli Pro Team0:07:04 
3Wolfgang Krenn (Aut)0:44:49 
4Josef Benedseder (Aut)0:54:54 
5Mike Mulkens (Bel) Kipeo MTB Team0:59:54 
6Christoph Sokoll (Aut)1:19:41 
7Justin Morris (Aus) Subaru/MarathonMTB.com1:47:13 
8Geeni Yong Choi (Kor) Team Korea1:52:01 
9Huub Duyn (Bel) Darrell Lee-Donckers Koffie Cycling 12:27:13 
10Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Darrell Lee-Donckers Koffie Cycling 12:27:20 
11Ondrej Slezak (Cze) Bernard Rocky Trail Racing3:14:30 
12Samuel McGregor (Aus) The Fitzroy Revolution3:43:28 
13Bruno Naessens (Bel)3:57:13 
14Roeland Suys (Bel) Kipeo MTB Team6:07:32 
15Sam Van De Gucht (Bel)6:41:04 
16Sander Van Schuerbeeck (Bel)6:41:42 
17Chris Hellman (Aus)7:09:13 
18Bram Donckers (Bel) Darrell Lee-Donckers Koffie Cycling 115:35:15 
Women general classification after stage 7
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Jessica Douglas (Aus)29:56:16 
2Sharman Parr (NZl) kickass12:55:01 
M1 general classification after stage 7
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Arnott Graeme (Aus) Subaru/MarathonMTB.com25:31:44 
2Mark Griffin (Aus) Ashfield Cycles & Rockytrail0:07:41 
3Jan Verboven (Bel) Den Outback 4bikes croc team 20110:28:05 
4Ashley Hayat (Aus) The Fitzroy Revolution0:33:03 
5Mike Blewitt (Aus) Subaru/MarathonMTB.com1:07:09 
6Michal Lanik (Cze)1:14:39 
7Gert Maes (Bel) Den Outback 4bikes croc team 20111:34:37 
8René Haselbacher (Aut)1:41:00 
9Steve Petre (Aus)3:04:01 
10Michal Kafka (Aus) Bernard Rocky Trail Racing3:22:25 
11Tim Schepens (Bel) Den Outback 4bikes croc4:03:29 
12Ki Joong Kim (Kor) Team Korea4:40:48 
13Matthias Schwarze (Ger) The Fitzroy Revolution5:21:08 
14Peter Roelens (Bel)5:55:32 
15Martin Wisata (Aut) Bernard Rocky Trail Racing6:06:35 
16Werner Van Vuuren (Aus)7:39:12 
17Frederic Starck (Bel)8:17:18 
18Laurent Tesch (Bel)8:17:20 
19Michael Taylor (Aus)8:45:00 
20Andreas Buchegger (Aut)9:17:22 
21Dirk Hörnig (Ger)9:50:31 
22Christophe Demeyere (Bel)13:18:05 
23Nicola Gianfranceschi (Ita)14:32:27 
M2 general classification after stage 7
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Brad Davies (Aus)26:14:34 
2Shaun Portegys (NZl)0:22:45 
3Marc Baechli (Swi)1:23:51 
4Carl Maroney (Aus)1:34:33 
5Patrick Mensch (Bel) Den Outback 4bikes croc team 20113:34:49 
6Baelen Guy Van (Bel) Den Outback 4bikes croc3:43:27 
7Johan Van Splunter (Ned) Silvis en Vos5:18:43 
8Christiaan Van Splunter (Ned) Silvis en Vos5:18:46 
9Aloyse Albert Schartz (Lux)5:42:48 
10Thomas Holmberg (Den)6:08:06 
11Jeroen Tiebie (Ned) Silvis en Vos6:50:44 
12Stéphane Maitrejean (Bel)7:34:25 
13John Boswell (Aus)9:57:45 
14Rien Montsma (Ned) Silvis en Vos 210:55:08 
15Blair King (NZl)10:56:52 
16Gianni Banterla (Ita)13:33:56 
17Andrew Chafer (USA) Team Van Be Venture28:41:52 
M3 general classification after stage 7
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Pio Tomasetig (Ita) Danieli Team30:53:55 
2Gerhard Grasmugg (Aut)3:01:11 
3Andrew Radcliffe (Aus)3:25:43 
4Andreas Wittmann (Ger)3:51:55 
5Greg Parr (Aus) kickass11:06:41 
Tandem general classification after stage 7
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Doris Ermens & Lieven Straetmans (Bel)32:01:07 
2Daniele Modolo & Sebastian Favaro (Ita) Il Tandem Italia3:00:50 
Points classification
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Jeroen Boelen (Ned) Milka-Trek100 pts
2Urs Huber (Swi) Stöckli Pro Team90 
3Wolfgang Krenn (Aut)39 
4Josef Benedseder (Aut)30 
5Mike Mulkens (Bel) Kipeo MTB Team20 
6Christoph Sokoll (Aut)20 
7Wolfgang Krenn (Aut)5 
8Justin Morris (Aus) Subaru/MarathonMTB.com2 
8Huub Duyn (Bel) Darrell Lee-Donckers Koffie Cycling 12 
8Ashley Hayat (Aus) The Fitzroy Revolution2 
8Geeni Yong Choi (Kor) Team Korea2 
Teams classification
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Subaru/MarathonMTB.com77:46:22 
2Den Outback 4bikes croc team 20115:09:11 
3The Fitzroy Revolution6:43:17 
4Bernard Rocky Trail Racing9:49:08 
5Darrell Lee-Donckers Koffie Cycling 114:09:02 
6Silvis en Vos18:25:33 
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