Defending champion Urs Huber showed he is the man to beat once again by winning stage one of the Croc Trophy in Australia.
The 98km stage from Cairns to Lake Tinaroo had to be diverted after 25km and eventually restarted after torrential rain caused a mudslide.
And Swiss rider Huber, seeking to become the first man to win back-to-back titles since Adam Hansen in 2004 and 2005, eventually stormed to victory on the remainer of the route in two hours, 35 minutes and 11 seconds.
Bart Brentjens of Holland finished four minutes, 32 seconds back in second, while Canada’s Cory Wallace was more than seven minutes further adrift in third.
“It was extremely difficult,” said Huber. “The terrain was very slippery and muddy and was constantly uphill.
“It always felt like I was getting stuck. I’m very glad and happy about the time gap that I was able to gain today.”
Abby McLennan led an Australian one-two-three in the women’s race, coming home in three hours, 44 minutes and 15 seconds ahead of Lesley Sutton and Lauretta Howarth.
“It seems so much longer and harder than last year’s race,” said McLennan. “The climbs never seemed to end. It was just up, up, up.”
The ten stage Croc Trophy covers a 1162km loop from Cairns to Cape Tribulation in Australia’s tropical north.