Change of the guard on Day 3: third place today and the new overall race lead for Alan Gordon (SAF) with +3:38min. Second stage win for Bart Classens (NED) in 3h22:04 ahead of Spain’s Brandan Marquez Fernandez (+2:49min). Australia’s Michael England finishes in fourth (+6min) and drops to second overall. Detailed overall gaps to be confirmed as we rest at Wondecla on the Atherton Tablelands our home for the next two nights. The leading woman Angelika Tazreiter (AUT) spectacularly finishes as 10th outright on the 74km marathon in 03:59:07,4.
The third stage of the Crocodile Trophy 25-year Anniversary edition featured the Herberton Range National Park and its popular Atherton MTB Park. Atherton lies at the base of the Great Dividing Range and after the first half of the 74km marathon included fun and fast relatively flat purpose-built gravel mountain bike tracks, known as the “Rail Trail”. Atherton lies at the base of the Great Dividing Range and what followed was a 7-8km and 400vm climb via sparse and rocky slopes up to Mount Baldy on the western edge of town. The surrounds differed greatly from the rainforest trails that the riders had experienced on the Tableland so far. After the Walsh River Trail with several pinchy ups and downs, the Croc warriors were able to get the first glimpses of the Outback with a few kilometres along a dry and dusty Powerline Track before turning onto wide dirt roads for the last few kilometres towards the finish at Wondecla Sports Grounds.
Today’s stage winner Bart Classens from the Netherlands said that he was happy about his improving performance after a rocky start caused by stomach problems ahead of his travels to Australia. “I’m happy with almost three minutes of a gap to second place today, I hope that I can make up a bit of time from now on in the general classification”, he added and that his strategy now was to attack whenever he could after loosing a lot of time on the first day.
Michael England from Australia placed fourth today and said that it had been a tough day in the saddle, “That first climb sorted us out and some gaps in the front group formed. I must admit that it was harder than I expected, especially the last 20km. Also the start looked like an easy start into the stage from the elevation profile, but it wasn’t that at all… but that’s why we are here, we’re here for the adventure.” He is now in second overall with a gap of 1:56min behind Alan Gordon and 6:20min ahead of the third, Spaniard Marquez Fernandez.
With a strong race and a successful attack in the Herberton Range National Park the experienced mountain bike stage racer Alan Gordon from South Africa who says that long climbs suited him, takes over the overall stage lead in Wondecla on day three. “I don’t know anyone here and so I sort of had an aim to finish in the top-three but I wasn’t sure if that was feasible. (…) The overall victory is definitely a goal”, he added and that he had been looking for a different kind of challenge. “It’s my first time in Australia and while plenty of my mates have spoken about doing the Croc, I decided to actually sign up. It seemed like a really cool race to do”, he explained.
Local support for a successful event
The 25th Anniversary of the Crocodile Trophy offers a uniquely authentic eight-day Australian adventure through Tropical North Queensland’s majestic landscapes to local, national and international competitors alike. Whilst the Croc has contributed to the tourism economy of Tropical North Queensland over the years through visitor nights generated and the international and national promotional campaigns spreading the word about the region as a cycling destination, the operational and logistics suppliers have been sourced from local businesses, including tourism and agricultural operators as well as service providers for accommodation, food and logistics.
With a majority of the core organisational crew Australian with Austrians Regina Stanger and race founder Gerhard Schönbacher at the helm of this so uniquely international race Down Under, the local community has played a big role in the event’s delivery and the support by the local MTB Clubs and businesses makes a real difference to the organisation of this international event. The Mareeba Mountain Goats and Atherton MTB Clubs providing sections of their home tracks as part of this year’s stage plan, the Croc home for the next two nights will at Wondecla Oval with thanks to the Herberton Magpies Rugby League Club.
The Crocodile Trophy event this year also receives the very ‘active’ support by a group of five local E-Bike riders who accompany riders out on course as race marshals, including Dan Bakurski who said the biggest challenge on the first two days had been not to run out of battery, of course. “We are out there for quite a long time as we accompany the riders at the back of the field and make sure everyone arrives at the finish safely”, he explained and said that he had been riding long sections without electric power too out of solidarity to the race competitors and to stay alongside them for moral support.
Such encouragement will be most welcome on tomorrow’s Queen Stage, the 98km marathon with 3,200vm of climbing which will feature the infamous “Stairway to Heaven” ascent in Atherton MTB Park. Start and finish will be at Wondecla.
Photos: Regina Stanger
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