Photos © John Flynn – Crocodile Trophy
The life’s dream of Czech cylist Ondrej Fojtik – to win the Crocodile Trophy – is now clearly within reach after today’s dramatic “Queen Stage” of Australia’s Outback Classic, a 142km journey from the spiritual Quinkan Country of Laura, to the historical coastal port of Cooktown in Tropical North Queensland.
Fojtik reached the crest of Cooktown’s Grassy Hill in second place, after sharing the effort over the final kilometres with Australia’s Craig Gordon, who emerged as a deserving stage winner on a day of high drama, at the summit of one of the world’s most spectacular hilltop finishes.
Gordon managed to join Fojtik 20km from the finish of today’s stage, just as the Czech’s long distance breakaway with Belgian Nic Vermeulen was about to be reeled in. At that point Fojtik’s Czech team-mates decided to relax, leaving it to a fresher Gordon and a tiring Fojtik to fight it out for the stage win.
A shattered Vermeulen, who did more than his share of the work to make the long distance breakaway succeed, had nothing left to give in the final kilometres and struggled, dejected, to the stage finish in sixth place.
The scenario proved beneficial to both Fojtik and Gordon. Fojtik extended his lead over second-placed team-mate Martin Horak to more than five minutes and Gordon, the former World 24 Hour solo Champion, gained the gravitas that go with the Crocodile Trophy’s most sought after stage victory.
“Oh just very, very lucky, those Czech guys are just so strong, they just got on the front and did a lot of work,” Gordon said. “I did a little bit of work, but nowhere near as much as the Czech guys did.”
Embroiled in what appeared to be a heated contest for the general classification with his renegade team-mate Martin Horak, who attacked repeatedly today in a desperate attempt to steal the race lead, Fojtik proved he was the stronger man – and the one most worthy from the expansive stable of VIG+ cyclists, of wearing the race leader’s jersey.
As he peered south from atop Grassy Hill, the same place British navigator James Cook surveyed a passage through the Great Barrier Reef for his stricken ship, The Endeavour, in 1770, Fojtik could almost see his ultimate prize on the far horizon.
“I hope that I will be winner tomorrow and I think that this stage was for me and Martin the most important,” Fojtik said.
Results after eight stages
1. Ondrej Fojtik
2. Martin Horak
3. Tomas Trunschka
4. Nicolas Vermeulen
5. Craig Gordon
6. Ivan Rybarik
7. Kris Hertsens
8. Tomas Kozak
9. Robert Novotny
10. Stephens Reece
1. Joanne Bennett
2. Karen Steurs
3. Naomi Hansen
Full results at www.crocodile-trophy.com.