Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

Crocodile Trophy Stages 6, 7, 8 and 9

2

Stage 7 was daunting on paper: 151kms and 43 degrees forecast. A break went up the road with Haselbacher, Mulkens, Sokoll, Griffin and Hsulmans early in the race and it was reasonably sedate except for Urs Huber attacking through the feedzones (a no no) and mayhem when we had to open farm gates. Eventually things settled down and it was a long hot day in the sun. The group was whittled down to about 15 as the breakaway came back to us one by one. The last 20kms were brutal corrugations and I got disconnected from the group with 5kms to go but minimised my time losses.  Very happy to have backed up from the horrors of the day before.

Stage 8 was eagerly anticipated as it was the shortest and flattest stage. What it lacked in length it made up for in pure speed. This stage was the most unbelievable display of riding I have ever seen. Urs Huber got on the front at the start and wound up the pace to warp speed from the get go. He was angry – at what we weren’t sure – but for the first 30kms he sat on the front at a pace that rode all but 12 of us off his wheel. He attacked at the feedzone (again) so I didn’t get a bottle but there was no way I was going to miss his train. At the 40km mark my average speed was 36kph on some of the roughest corrugations we had seen so far. Then, inexplicably, when we got to a relatively smooth bit of road he eased off to 20kph. No one dared to come around him and we all caught our breath. Then a kilometre or so later we hit rough corrugations and sand and he wound it up to 50kph. And this pattern continued for the rest of the stage. Slow on good road, lightning fast on the rough stuff. If someone dared to attack Huber would chase it down and then counter attack to make it hard for them to get back on. At 85kms into the stage Huber moved off the front for the first time – and we had averaged 32.6kph. There was a rift in the bunch with one of the highly placed riders who hadn’t done any work in the previous week despite sitting third. Huber then sat on this rider’s wheel at a painfully slow pace and the attacks started. Three riders got away and we basically just sat there in stunned silence, knowing it was the winning move but not being able to do much about it. I came across the line in 9th and watched Huber slump on the ground with blood all over him. He had been bleeding since the second feed zone we heard and I shook my head wondering what the hell I had just witnessed.

Stage 9 we awoke to the news that Urs Huber had withdrawn from the race citing sickness. The riders were a bit bemused at his lack of respect for the race leader. There was a sense that he knew was beaten and didn’t want to race for second.

I had decided that without Huber there I was going to try a break. This was a daunting prospect given that this stage was billed as the most difficult of the race, with 148kms and long sections of unrideable sand. The first rider to go was Haselbacher (13 year pro) followed by Ash Hayat who gradually worked his way across. I was marking Hsulmans whom I was certain would want to be part of the action and sure enough he went. I was straight on to his wheel and he pulled a monster turn to get us within 250m and I was able to do the rest. The four of us worked well together and we started to get encouraging timechecks that topped out at 7 minutes at around the 70km mark. We had averaged 33kph into a headwind on corrugated roads and so was certainly feeling it when we hit the first section of deep sand. Ash was straight out the hoop and Kevin, Rene and I oscillated between riding in the sand or up in the bush on the side of the road. The going was incredibly tough and after 5 or 6 kms Kevin started to pull away. Rene and I rode well together and then, amazingly, the race leader hit us at 95kms. He had basically pulled back 7 minutes in 20kms and Rene and I were straight on to his wheel. I was able to follow Jerone for about7kms (despite him going at about 80% to make it easy for us) and then popped. It was ages before I saw another rider, and then another, and I worried that I was going to get completely swamped. At this stage I had been out there for close to five hours riding at high intensity and was hoping things wouldn’t go pear shaped. The sand was ridiculous – completely unrideable – but I was able to use my mountain bike skills to work my way through the bush parallel to the track. I had now passed all of my breakaway companions and was sitting just inside the top 10 but being challenged from behind. I was able to respond in the last 20 kms to hold off the challengers and secure the final top 10 spot. A very satisfying day – particularly given that I had been able to creep into the top 10 on the general classification and extended my lead in the M2 category by 25 minutes.

Stage 10 promised to be interesting. I asked Jeroen – the race leader – how things would pan out as he had the power to determine how it would pan out. “We will go slow until the feedzone at halfway. A few guys want to get on TV so we will let them go but they will come back to us no problem.” Jeroen asked me to tell the other Australians not to chase the break and enjoy the easy pace.

True to his word, this is how it panned out and the pace only lifted at the 50km mark. I had just three minutes on my nearest competitor so he was the only person I needed to mark, though I had not given up hope of a stage win. I decided to roll the dice 25kms from home and attacked solo. I got a gap of one and ahalf minutes and none of the pros were chasing given I had been aggressive all week and they were happy to give me my chance. Inexplicably some Czech guy who had been nowhere all week decided to make a name for himself and chase me down. He was apparently the only one working and brought the bunch close enough for other riders to start to think about their own attacks. At that moment – after 15kms solo – the effort was clearly doomed. The last 10 kilometres were frenetic with continuous attacks. Justin Morris – a few minutes behind me on the classification – started to attack and each time I was able to bridge and respond. I had learned enough this week to know that I didn’t have to work with him and just played the defensive role. The front group splintered into small groups and I rolled across the line in 8th spot – very satisfied! I had also won the M2 category and finished 8th overall. Big thanks to Enduro Magazine and Giant / Bicycles Inc for making it possible – couldn’t have done it without you. Also thanks to Torq and Ergon.

Comments

2 Responses to “Crocodile Trophy Stages 6, 7, 8 and 9”

Trackbacks

Check out what others are saying about this post...
  1. tony says:

    authorizes@solitudes.richter” rel=”nofollow”>.…

    благодарю!…

  2. eugene says:

    yarder@unbreakable.inert” rel=”nofollow”>.…

    спасибо за инфу….