UPDATE JURGEN DE WITTE & ARNOUT MATTHYS
Stage 7 - Skybury Coffee Plantation - Wetherby Station // 102km / 1200vm
HUBER PREVAILS IN WETHERBY; ANNEMIEK VAN VLEUTEN DOMINATES WOMEN
The second-last stage of the Crocodile Trophy took the riders further north and towards the coast to Wetherby Cattle Station where Urs Huber wins another stage in a sprint finish ahead of Sebastien Carabin. Annemiek van Vleuten claims her third stage win as eighth outright ahead of Ruth Corset and Alice Pirard. New amateur leader is Jurgen de Witte (BEL); Daniel Beresford will go into the final stage in the Australia leader jersey.
Today's stage lead the riders via open fire roads towards the rainforest and the coast, ever so close to the finish in Port Douglas tomorrow. A dusty bunch of riders arrived at Wetherby Station, Australia's oldest cattle station, which offers an authentic Outback experience on last time before the beach finish ahead.
It was a hot day today and riders spoke of the beautiful views and scenery as the raced through the thick rainforests of Kuranda and Mowbray National Parks.
Tomorrow's final stage will be a time trial from Wetherby Station to Four Mile Beach via the infamous Bump Track, a rough downhill track down the escarpment into the tropical holiday paradise of Port Douglas. The finish will be right where two World Heritage sites, the oldest Rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef, promising a spectacular finish to the 2016 Crocodile Trophy event.
From 10 am, riders will start in reverse order from the General Classification; race leader Urs Huber will be the last racer released onto the stage eight track. The first finishers will be expected across the line on Four Mile Beach near the Surf Life Saving Club in Port Douglas from 11 am with the race winners arriving from 11:30 am. The winners celebration will be held on Four Mile Beach at 2 pm.
Stage 6 - Skybury Coffee Plantation - Mareeba Wetlands // 49km / 400vm
STEF DE LOUWERE WINS STAGE 6 AT SKYBURY, ANNEMIEK VAN VLEUTEN IS SECOND OUTRIGHT
An audacious attack by Annemiek van Vleuten surprised the entire Crocodile Trophy field on today's stage six - only young Stef de Louwere from The Netherlands went with her. Stage win for de Louwere, van Vleuten finishes second outright. Huber keeps overall race lead ahead of Carabin with two stages to go.
Right from the start the lead group around race leader Urs Huber from Switzerland seemed a bit passive - the shortest stage of the Crocodile Trophy had been considered a rest stage for many of the racers.
Not so for Annemiek van Vleuten. Today it was time for revenge for the 34-year old Dutch Olympic road racer, who suffered bad luck twice in a row, missing turns on the past two stages, loosing her overall women's lead and a lot of time after good gaps each day.
Audaciously she attacked the entire Crocodile Trophy field this morning on the 50km flat stage through the Mareeba Wetlands with start and finish at the Skybury Coffee Plantation. And got away.
The 19-year old fellow Dutch road racer Stef de Louwere went after her, caught up and they worked together for the rest of the stage. A very emotional Stef de Louwere claimed the stage as one of the youngest ever to do so in 1:31:29 with Annemiek van Vleuten finishing less than a second behind him. Van Vleuten complimented her break-away companion as "working very hard today" and said he was a worthy stage winner.
In third today was Michel Meysman from Belgium who is racing in the A3 catgory, the 40+ age classification. He said that he wanted to get some time back from his opponents and thanks to the relatively short distance of the stage he was able to maintain the gap to his category riders until the finish, and is third in the race overall. He finished in a group with Urs Huber (SUI), the overall race leader, who came in fourth ahead of Sebastien Carabin (BEL).
With not much change in the overall standings generally, today's stage will certainly go down in Crocodile Trophy history - not every day that both the elite men's and elite women's winners cross the line right behind each other!
Stage 5 - Atherton - Skybury Coffee Plantation // 131km / 1900vm
HUBER WINS SPRINT AT SKYBURY, PIRARD STAYS IN THE WOMEN'S LEAD
Today's Queen Stage from Atherton to Skybury was once again decided in a finish sprint between Urs Huber and the Belgian Sebastien Carabin. The Swiss race leader Huber claims stage 5 with Carabin staying hot on his wheel.
Stage five from Atherton to Skybury Coffee Plantation is the longest stage in the 2016 Crocodile Trophy and with the elevation profile much flatter than on previous days the race today was full of tactics, fast turns and had riders get a real Outback experience.
After the past days in Atherton with so many metres of elevation to climb and singletrails to race, today was a true "Outback stage" and this year's Queen Stage of the Crocodile Trophy. The day had 130km to race and riders spoke of extreme heat on the open dirt highways, head winds towards the finish, rough terrain and the occasional cooling river crossings.
At the front, race leader Urs Huber (SUI) tried everything to get away from his biggest opponent, Sebastien Carabin (BEL), who was able to stay on his wheel, withstanding all the attacks from the strong Swiss National Marathon Champions.
A bit of bad luck once again for our elite woman, Annemiek van Vleuten. She and the top two in the amateur category, Lincoln Carolan and Daniel Beresford missed a turn, which side-tracked them onto an additional 20km of track before arriving safely - albeit exhausted - at the finish. Annemiek van Vleuten thus drops into third position overall in the elite women's classification with a gap of 1h23 to Pirard and Lincoln Carolan and Daniel Beresford once again swap leader jerseys - Carolan will race stage six in the amateur and Beresford in the Australia leader jersey.
Alice Pirard (BEL) as the first woman across the line again at Skybury increases her overall lead with Ruth Corset (AUS) in second today. Overall Pirard now leads by 1h17 ahead of the Australian Corset.
Stage 4 - Atherton // 72km / 2300vm
HUBER SPRINTS TO VICTORY IN ATHERTON: STAGE WIN ON DAY 4
Today's fourth stage was a marathon through the Herberton State Forest with start and finish in Atherton - we're at the half-way mark of the Crocodile Trophy 2016 with two long marathon stages coming up towards Skybury.
Urs Huber (SUI) defends his leader jersey today against a persistent Sebastien Carabin (BEL), only 3.1 seconds separate them at the finish. Bas Peters (NED) comes in third (+5:23') ahead of Michiel van Aelbroeck (+7:27') and the Austrian Matthias Grick (+11:37').
In the women's Annemiek van Vleuten had been leading for the majority of the day, but unfortunately took a wrong turn on the course and lost a lot of time. She is now safely back at the finish.
First woman across the line is the Belgian Alice Pirard in 4h44:59.0 ahead of the Australian Ruth Corset and the two amateur women Anita Narula (AUS) and Joanne Koy (AUS). Sarah Kaehler (AUS) is the third elite woman to finish, as fifth woman overall.
(Artikels enkel in het Engels)
Atherton MTB Park // 57km / 1600vm
ELITE VICTORIES FOR BELGIUM - CARABIN AND PIRARD WIN STAGE 3 IN ATHERTON
Today's second stage was a lap race at the Atherton MTB Park. Sebastien Carabin wins by 1:11 min ahead of Urs Huber who defends his leader jersey and Matthias Grick (AUT +9:43). Michiel van Aelbroeck (BEL +15:22) in fourth, Manuel Pliem (AUT +15:23) in fifth. Alice Pirard wins in the women's ahead of Annemiek van Vleuten and Sarah Kaehler (AUS).
Stage three in the Atherton Mountain Bike Park was Australian-style racing at its best: lots of singletrails, berms, tight corners and rocky terrain and the Crocodile Trophy field was impressed.
The cross-country specialist Sebastien Carabin and race leader Urs Huber rode together for most of the race until Huber had bad luck when a branch got stuck in his back wheel. Carabin overtook the Swiss rider and in break-neck style descended into the finish, winning by 1:11min. Urs Huber still holds onto the leader jersey, however, and leads the general classification by 1:37min ahead of today's stage winner Carabin.
Huber is the marathon expert, Carabin very skilled on the technical stages - tomorrow's stage is another technical one, followed by two marathon stages that will demand endurance. The Austrian Matthias Grick came in third, recovered from yesterday's cramps.
After three stages, in the women's elite division, Annemiek van Vleute is still our race leader by 4:09min, coming into the finish in second behind today's winner, Alice Pirard who was beaming with excitement after racing in Atherton. Sarah Kaehler (AUS) comes in third. Ruth Corset had bad luck as well - four flats in a row.
Here are some of the riders, talking about their race day number three:
Sebastien Carabin (BEL)
"Today suited me really well, beautiful singletrails and perfect for a cross-country specialist like me! In the beginning I couldn't pass Urs Huber at all. But on the last lap he had a problem, when a tree branch got stuck in his wheel, so that's when I was able to pass him. I waited for him to get going again and then attacked with about 10km to go."
Urs Huber (SUI) - not too disappointed, despite mechanical
"I knew today was going to be a good stage for him [Carabin], that's why i wanted to get into the singletrail in first, which I did. From there I was able to control the race for a long time, but at the last descent I got a branch into my gear shifter at the back, so I had to stop. Sebastien passed me and took quite some risks on the descent to get away. I didn't want crash or risk another mechanical, so I descended more carefully, so I'm ok with the second place. "
"The long stages will suit me better, but generally I think the overall length of the race will play in my favour. I think Carabin had some advantages today with his fully [full suspension bike], I think, otherwise technically I'm equally strong. But the track today was quite rough, so he had a good set up."
"I have more experience when it comes to the Crocodile Trophy, I know when to pace myself, when to be careful - the gap is very small now, but I'm still relatively relaxed about it. Carabin gained some time today, but had to risk a lot for it - and if that doesn't work out, your whole week might be over. That's why my motto is, stay cool and it will work out."
Alice Pirard BEL
"Today was a wonderland - it was a dream! It was singletrack paradise, the wholetime technical stuff, berms, roots, rockgardens, exactly what I love. It was real mountain biking today! I pushed hard from the beginning, so I had a good rhythm just like in cross-country racing, I think I have quite a good gap. It's really nice to have a second stage win. Also, Sebastien is my team mate, so it's really cool for our team that we both won the stage again and on the same day.
Annemiek van Vleuten NED
"That was quite technical today, a great track and real mountain biking! Now I know why so many Australians love mountain biking!" - Keeps overall women's lead.
Ruth Corset AUS
"Today was pretty tough, because I got four flats [flat tyres] - three of them on the first lap! I didn't have any tubes left for the last two, so I had some fellow riders top and help me, which was really nice of them. I don't really know why, I've never had flats before, used the same tyres... I just don't understand. The course was beautiful, nice and flowy. I preferred today to yesterday, even though I'm a road rider. It was just so brutally hot... and I like hills generally, but that was just crazy. "
Stage 4 will be a marathon starting at the Coombra Station and will ascend to the top of the Great Dividing Range where the racers will ride through the Herberton Range State Forest and back to Atherton. In total it will be 72km across 2300vm.
TOP RESULTS Elite Stage 3:
1 #1 Sebastien CARABIN BEL merida wallonie-Vojo Mag 3:34:40.2
2 #11 Urs HUBER SUI Team Bulls 3:35:51.8 +1:11
3 #2 Matthias GRICK AUT KTM Ebner Transporte Cycling Team Graz 3:44:23.8 +9:43
4 #4 Michiel VAN AELBROECK BEL WMTB.be 3:50:02.7 +15:22
5 #10 Manuel PLIEM AUT Team KTM-RAD.SPORT.SZENE 3:50:03.4 +15:23
1 #21 Alice PIRARD BEL Merida-Wallonie MTB Team 4:25:56.3
2 #22 Annemiek VAN VLEUTEN NED Orica-AIS / Scott 4:41:04.2 +15:07
3 #23 Sarah KAEHLER AUS Astute Financial Racing Team 5:00:13.9 +34:17
4 #25 Ruth CORSET AUS 5:12:16.3 +46:20
TOP RESULTS Elite Overall after 3 Stages:
1 #11 Urs HUBER SUI Team Bulls 9:54:33.4
2 #1 Sebastien CARABIN BEL merida wallonie-Vojo Mag 9:56:10.9 +0:1:37
3 #10 Manuel PLIEM AUT Team KTM-RAD.SPORT.SZENE 10:30:55.1 +0:36:21
1 22 Annemiek VAN VLEUTEN NED Orica-AIS / Scott 12:46:35.2
2 21 Alice PIRARD BEL Merida-Wallonie MTB Team 12:50:44.9 +0:4:09
3 25 Ruth CORSET AUS 13:57:47.9 +1:11:12
Cairns-Atherton // 104km (116km) / 2500vm (2700vm)
HUBER AND VAN VLEUTEN TAKE THE RACE LEADS IN ATHERTON
Urs Huber crossed the line in Atherton as the winner of Stage 2 of the 2016 Crocodile Trophy. Sebastien Carabin (BEL) comes in second (+3:50min) and the Austrian Manuel Pliem in third. The Dutch Olympic road racer Annemik van Vleuten wins the elite women's category ahead of Alice Pirard (BEL) in second (+28:45min) and Ruth Corset from Australia (+44:37min).
The word used most often by the riders arriving at the finish at Atherton's Coombra Station was 'brutal'. The Crocodile Trophy lived up to its reputation as the "hardest mountain bike stage race" on earth. Today's stage started with neutral ride out of Cairns towards the escarpment where the official start gun went and riders started the first tough climb towards Copperlode Dam. Then the elevation profile was full of steep pinches and hills - 2500vm were to cover in the one day. The final stretch after the last feedzone took even the elite riders well over an hour - strong headwinds making it very difficult to keep up a rhythm.
URS HUBER TAKES THE LEAD
The front group were riding at a breakneck pace - according to Manuel Bliem who placed in third, they were riding at 600 Watts on the first climb, pushing really hard. Urs Huber (SUI) and Sebastien Carabin (BEL) in the leader's jersey were able to get away though, riding together until just before the finish when Huber attacked, won the stage and is now the new race leader.
Of Carabin today's stage winner Urs Huber said that he had raced a clever race, staying with him all day. "I was able to get away with about 5km to go. Today was really long and hot and the headwind in the end was really tough", he admitted.
Sebastien Carabin said, "It was difficult, but I knew I had to ride with Urs, but he was stronger than me and was in front most of the time. The first climb was so tough and then it was very hilly and really, today was 10km too long for me. We were together all day, but then he attacked at the last climb and I couldn't hang on. Then I just tried to finish as fast as I could, but was already very tired. It will be tough to recover from today."
Manuel Bliem was happy to be at the finish, "Today was a very hot stage. Half-way through the race i looked at my computer and it said 38 degrees. I rode more than 100km on my own, I just couldn't hang onto the first two, but I tried not to overdo it and preserver some energy for the next few days so I'm really happy with my placing. It was very windy towards the end and so hot, I tried to drink everyhting I could get - I think I drank 11 bottles today and still it seemed not enough."
LINCOLN CAROLAN WINS AMATEUR CLASSIFICATION
As the first Australian and amateur racer across the line, Lincoln Carolan from Cairns was happy to be at the finish. He had battled all day by himself when Annemiek van Vleute caught up to him and for 30km they rode together towards the finish.
"Today was just brutal. I stayed with the front group on the first climb, but when we got to Copperlode Dam they just really put the hammer down. I was by myself for most of the day, but then I saw Annemiek [van Vleuten] coming up behind me and I slowed down and we rode for about 30km together - she is so strong, you can tell she is one of the world's best time trial riders. We worked together and with about 15km to go she started to cramp a little bit so I said just stick on my wheel as long as you can. I'm happy that I'm through. I'm only smiling because I won."
Organiser Gerhard Schönbacher said that he didn't expect this stage to be so hard on his riders, "It is about 25km longer than in recent years, because we rode directly to Coombra Station instead of staying overnight at Lake Tinaroo. It seems that exactly that part of the stage was what hurt most racers the most, but we'll look after them tonight and make sure they recover well." He added that a small group of racers would be picked up at the last feedzone as the risk of them riding into the darkness and missing the cut-off time would be too high. "They will still be in the race", he added and that they would be able to continue in their respective classifications with a small time penalty.
Both Annemiek van Vleuten and Urs Huber will be starting in the elite leader jerseys tomorrow. Tomorrow's stage three will be a lap race in the Atherton MTB Park; two loops of 27km ea will have to be completed with a total of 1600vm. For further event information, visit www.crocodile-trophy.com
Sebastien Carabin and Alice Pirard claim elite leader jerseys for Belgium
The 22nd Crocodile Trophy kicked off with a brutal stage 1 today in Cairns. The Crocodile Trophy elite leader jerseys are both going to Belgium: Sebastien Carabin and Alice Pirard claim the victories today.
The 22nd Crocodile Trophy kicked off with a brutal stage 1 today in Cairns. Riders from all over the world and Australia raced from the magnificent Pacific Palms Resort into the Smithfield MTB Park, where 4 laps had to be completed in the challenging midday heat. A tough climb took them back onto the finish fire trail and the resort.
The cross-country specialist Sebastien Carabin from Belgium took out the first stage ahead of Urs Huber (SUI) and the Austrian Matthias Grick.
In the elite females, the Belgian National Marathon Champion, Alice Pirard won with Australia's road racing champion, Ruth Corset taking second place and Annemiek van Vleuten came in third. Amateur woman Anita Narula (AUS) finished as third woman outright in the field behind Corset.