A long road ahead

FELT - Shimano Dream Team Diaries - October 19, 2006

It's that time of year and the FELT - Shimano Dream Team has assembled yet again for the 2006 Crocodile Trophy. This year the Dream Team boasts two Australians and an Austrian endurance specialist. As in years past, there were the last-minute changes to the line-up, Sean Yates, Director Spotif of Discovery Channel Team and winner of 18 independent races in the 2006 season, had to withdraw his entry due to personal commitments.

When the Dream Team arrived at the start line it consisted of the following:
Darren O'Grady - Former track specialist and current Masters MTB Australian Champion.
Valentine Zeller - Austrian endurance and adventure race specialist. 2004 World Champion Endurance Cyclist.
David Wood - Australian, environmental engineer from Cairns. David is now riding his third Crocodile Trophy.

Stage One: Townsville to Townsville Criterium, 15 km

The first stage was the same nightmare as that of the 2005 Crocodile Trophy…after days of bike wrenching and tweaking, the Dream Team, along with the other 45 cyclists, rode 15km in a sandy brine. Afterwards, it was another three-hours of cleaning and wrenching the salty damage out of the brakes, chain and bearings, at Top Brand Bike Shop in Townsville.

It was criminal to put the 2007 Shimano XTR to that test - a headache to say the least. The boys finished almost together on the stage, landing the FELT - Shimano Dream Team in pole position for the teams standings.

The Dream Team is also involved with FELT's sponsorship of the Most Aggressive Rider Jersey - with the winner receiving a FELT RXC Team bike at the end of the race in Cairns.

Stage Two: Hervey's Range - Hidden Valley, 103 km

Zellar reported following the stage the pack stayed tight for the first 35 kilometres of the stage, until after the first feed zone. When the race then hit the dirt, the once neatly bunched group of hitters, blew apart. The surface of the road was a mixture of saturated bull dust and clay, the descents were slippery and the climbs required leg searing strength. It was a reality check for most, including the Dream Team's Darren O'Grady who will surely ride into strength as this endurance survival adventure hits the 100 km mark.

David Wood rolled out of Hervey's Range with a big smile on his face, as he was, being a local environmental engineer, familiar with this stage. Wood likes it when there is any technical element, so the clay and wet bull dust over the climbs was right up his alley and aided him to an impressive fifth position. Wood's girl friend Melanie Grant is racing the Crocodile Trophy for her first time so Wood made sure he set her up before heading straight for the front bunch. A smiling Grant finished just 90 minutes after Wood.

In eighth place, Zeller was the second of the Dream Team to cross the line into Hidden Valley - a beautiful oasis in the Australian Outback….there is even a pub! Zeller commented that he was the first to attack today and that he fully expects to be donning two pairs of nicks for tomorrow's stage, as his backside has just been introduced to the corrugations that make the Crocodile Trophy!

O'Grady fulfilled his own prediction that today may very well be the wake up call he needs to snap into racing form for the event - the world's longest, most gruelling, mountain bike stage race. O'Grady was later heard singing tunes in the shower - evidence that he is actually well within his comfort zone. O'Grady is our best kept secret.

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What do an Australian MTB Champion, an environmental engineer and an Austrian World Champion endurance cyclist have in common? They all ride for the FELT - Shimano Dream Team. Oh, and they are crazy for tackling the world's toughest MTB endurance race - Australia's Crocodile Trophy. As Darren O'Grady, David Wood & Valentine Zeller battle through the bush from the Northern Territory into Far-North-Queensland, team manager Christi Valentine-Anderson will keep us up-to-date on the boys' progress.