One of the great surprises to emerge from the 2009 Crocodile Trophy was the performance of Australia's Tropical Tableland Discovery Team that, barring Josh Prete's mishap two days ago, could have placed three riders in the top ten overall.
As it was, when considering all categories combined, Isaac Tonello placed eighth and Steve Rankine ninth, an outstanding effort for a local team cobbled together at the 11th hour to contest the event.
Tonello, who claimed the Masters 1 category jersey in his second attempt at the race, remains in awe of the visiting Europeans.
"It was good to see Bart (Brentjens) and Urs (Huber) go for it. On the first climb up the creb track they went supersonic," Tonello said.
"I really wanted to get top 15 overall, and I've come in eighth, so I'm pretty happy with it. "Next year it might be a different story."
Rankine, an experienced ex-pro triathlete, realises now that he came into the race unprepared, but in the process has learned much from his first Crocodile Trophy experience.
"I've had a bit of bad luck with flats, but I put my head down and basically scraped into the top 10," Rankine said.
"Its such a learning experience, I've done some good bike races but this race, in one stage you fight the whole way and one minute you feel like throwing the bike away and the next minute you dig deep.
"I can understand now why they say it's the toughest mountainbike race in the world."
Rankine, a Daintree local, will be heading home tomorrow, the final day of the race, as the protagonists of the Crocodile Trophy roll together towards the finish line at Cape Tribulation. According to race tradition, the riders will abandon their race faces and share the incredible experiences that formed the narrative of the 2009 event.
Urs Huber (Team Stöckli-Craft) will head home to Switzerland with the elite men's title ahead of runner-up Bart Brentjens (Trek-Brentjens MTB Team) of the Netherlands. Belgium's Mike Mulkens will claim the third podium spot.
In the women's race, the win will go to Monique Zeldenrust of the Netherlands. Two Australian followed her: Lisa Pleyer (Roadbike Holidays - KTM) and Abby McLennan (Rattle N Hum).
With the general classification decided it will be time for the gladiators of the Crocodile Trophy to finally relax.
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