By John Flynn
At the end of 1,400 kilometres and thirteen stages, across hundreds of thousands of corrugations, from the vastness of the Australian Outback to the magnificent rainforest of the Daintree, the strongest rider in the Crocodile Trophy of 2006 crossed the finish line as the ultimate victor. His name - Christophe Stevens of Belgium.
And what a way to end a cycling career!
Stevens, who will officially put his bike in the garage for good after today, crossed the finish line on the beach in beautiful Cow Bay, where wife Anita, the bride he met at his first Crocodile Trophy two years ago, was waiting.
The Belgian finished more than a half an hour (33.08) in front of his nearest rival Attila Marton of Hungary, with Stefan Rucker of Austria (1.05.58 in arrears) - one of the most improved riders in this event, third in the General Classification.
When the final standings are etched into Crocodile Trophy history it will go down as a victory well deserved. Stevens proved himself the best cyclist in the race - one which demands skills across all areas of cycling, riding on tarmac roads, dirt roads, mountain tracks, across corrugations, sand, rocks, mud, steep ascents and gnarly descents.
"It's nice to finish on a beautiful location like this and it's so nice to win the Croc Trophy," Stevens said at race end. "That's it for me, no more competition for me, if I ride my bike now, it's to the bakery - if it's not raining and if the car's not there - just to bike for fun."
For those who witnessed Stevens' first assault on the Crocodile Trophy two years ago, it was an inspiring turnaround. He came to the race in 2004 as an accomplished road racer, but the Australian Outback almost destroyed him. Bravely, the Belgian returned in 2005 - riding strong, but without luck. His return this year might have come with a lesser preparation, but the knowledge he had gained over two previous Crocodile Trophy experiences clearly shone through.
Cyclingnews was on hand for ever brutal mile of the 2006 Crocodile Trophy. Check out our full race reports, results and photos here:
- Race 1 - October 17: Townsville - Townsville, 15 km
- Race 2 - October 18: Herveys Range - Hidden Valley, 120 km
- Race 3 - October 19: Hidden Valley - Lake Lucy, 170 km
- Race 4 - October 20: Lake Lucy - Blencoe Falls, 124 km
- Race 5 - October 21: Blencoe Falls - Koombooloomba, 75 km
- Race 6 - October 22: Koombooloomba - Irvinebank, 125 km
- Race 7 - October 23: Irvinebank - Chillagoe, 156 km
- Race 8 - October 24: Chillagoe (time trial), 30 km
- Race 9 - October 25: Chillagoe - Mt. Mulgrave, 136 km
- Race 10 - October 26: Mt. Mulgrave - Laura, 148 km
- Race 11 - October 27: Laura - Cooktown, 142 km
- Race 12 - October 28: Cooktown - Daintree, 135 km
- Race 13 - October 29: Cow Bay - Cow Bay, 30 km
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