Good thing that the Normanby River, in which the infamous Queensland’s saltwater crocodiles were sighted just a few days ago, separated the raging bush fires from the finish area or the stage would have had to be neutralized.
After a short but extremely hot stage Huub Duyn (Darrell Lee–Donckers Koffie) from the Netherlands won in Kalpowar Camp, beating Austrian Josef Benedseder in a two-way sprint. After three years as a helper on the road for Garmin riders Bradley Wiggins, Tylar Farrar, Christian Vande Velde and Martijn Maaskant, Duyn returned to the Continental level. His excursion to the Crocodile Trophy was supposed to be for fun, but once a rider is on the bike, he wants to win…
“This morning Huub was complaining again and he didn’t want to start any more,” said his team-mate Kevin Hulsmans from Belgium. “We told him that it was a short stage and that it would be easier on the bike than in the back of a wobbling car.” Wobbling; that’s an accurate description of the stage. Corrugations from the start in Laura ’til the end in Kalpowar. ‘Fortunately’, it was a flat stage. The heat and the rough surface made it hard enough already.
The best 17 riders immediately broke away but soon lost René Haselbacher (puncture), Mark Griffin (hit a reflective pole with his left knee) and Mike Blewitt (material problem). Nobody in the front was able to attack as Swiss champion Urs Huber kept the pace so high that nobody ever thought of taking the initiative. For more than 70km the two-time Crocodile Trophy winner was pulling the front group. Impressive, but not immediately comprehensible to riders and spectators alike.
“I didn’t want a scenario like yesterday when a small group of riders broke away and caused mine and race leader Boelen’s group to fall asleep behind them,” said Huber.”“I wanted to make the race hard. It is my only chance to beat Jeroen Boelen, still seven minutes ahead of me in the GC. Okay, in the end nobody cracked but I had to give it a try.”
Huber kept powering on after the second feed station, despite a nose bleed that wouldn’t stop until he was at the finish, being looked after by medical staff and partner Simone Jung, whom he had met at last year’s Crocodile Trophy.
“A lot of times in my career I raced with and against Fabian Cancellara,” said Hulsmans. ”But what Huber did was as impressive, just what Spartacus would do. Amazing how he, by himself, kept the speed that high on those terrible corrugations. We were all dying on his wheel.”
Really just one rider had tried to do something against Urs Huber’s hegemony and that was Hulsmans. He attacked, like he’s done every day so far, but this time not once, not two or three times, Hulsmans attacked ten times on the roads through the Lakefield National Park, with its countless termite colonies. The first eight times it was Huber himself who went after him. The last two times, at five and 3km from the end it was the Australian Graeme Arnott, the leader in the Masters category, who spoiled the plans of Hulsmans.
The first counter attack of someone else was immediately the one that worked. Huub Duyn gave it a try at 2km from the finish. Josef Benedseder and Justin Morris were the only ones able or willing to follow. For Morris it all went too fast, while Benedseder started the sprint between the two of them from too far behind and the experienced Duyn overtook him and claimed his first ever mountain bike victory.
“At the 500m mark I tried to push it really hard but apparently not hard enough as Duyn managed to pass me,” said the disappointed Austrian rider. “This is already my second place finish in this Crocodile Trophy. There are still two chances left for me. I came here for a stage win and I won’t give it up.”
With his third place, Australian Morris (Subaru/MarathonMTB.com) was as happy as if he had won. “We had a good team performance today. Graeme Arnott worked for his position as best Master in the GC, I would race for the stage win. I did not win, but this is really my best ever performance in a mountain bike race. I hope this can give other diabetics more hope; just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean that you can’t do sports at a high level.”
Next season Morris will race on the road for Team Type 1, on the development program, as he did in 2010. “I am the first diabetic to do this race. I hope some others will follow my example,” he said.
But the happiest rider in Kalpowar was, of course, Dutchman Duyn. “It is true, I thought ‘what am I doing here?’ a lot and that I should really be somewhere nice with my wife in October, but now my perseverance delivered. I had no mountain bike experience at all. This race is technically not so hard, but there is the heat, today all those corrugations – I have blisters on my hands – and then after the stage you need to put up your tents, wash your clothes yourself etc. It makes it hard, but an unforgettable adventure.”
After winning the Paris-Tours under-23 race for Rabobank Continental in 2006, Jonathan Vaughters brought Duyn to his Slipstream-Chipotle team in 2007, where he stayed there for three years. “That was a perfect team for me. Vaughters had patience with me after my mononucleosis in my first and an iliac outlet syndrome in my second year. They used me for all work. I started in all the Classics races for them. I can climb, I can ride the whole day in the front. I know my job in cycling.”
For Duyn, 2010 (Team NetApp) was a year to forget after being hit by a car, which left him with five fractures in his face. For the Continental team Donckers Koffie, Duyn got four podium places in 2011, but he had to come to Australia for his first victory.
Best Master 1 finisher in Kalpowar was Belgian Jan Verboven. “I have a full-time job and two little kids, so these Crocodile Trophy results are a surprise for me. On the other hand, I really trained for it a whole year. My father was a multiple winner in road races. I prefer mountain biking. That’s more fun, more nature, more honest.”
Stage nine is over 148km from Kalpowar to Starke. It will be a very hard and sandy stage with deep bull dust sections. Having suffered from a sore knee for the past few days, Australian John Boswell will not be at the start line any more.