The ultimate battler in the Crocodile Trophy of 2009, Australia’s Chris Neal, was awarded the race’s final accolade yesterday as he crossed the finish line in first place after leading the peloton home on the final stage from Ayton to Cape Tribulation.
According to race tradition, one that began with Belgian ironman Marc Herremans two years ago, the lone crusader in last place on the Crocodile Trophy’s general classification was handed the honour by the leaders of the peloton, race winner Urs Huber of Switzerland and the great Dutch-man Bart Brentjens.
For nine days straight Neal had ridden mostly alone, hours behind his fellow pro-tagonists, with the sole goal of completing the Crocodile Trophy.
He had looked to the race as a metaphor for something greater, an opportunity to better himself and be an example to his children as they grow and encounter the obstacles of life.
“This experience is second only to becoming a father,” an emotional Neal said as the race finished on the glorious tropical beach at Cape Tribulation. “You can just do it, you can do anything in life that you possibly want. The guys letting me come through first is so generous.”
Australian-American Aaron Pickett-Heaps, one of the characters of the 2009 Crocodile Trophy, found poignant words to describe the feelings of those who reached the rainforest fringed beach after ten days in the Outback.
“It’s been excellent, so many stories and so many different types of people coming together and getting to know each other, it’s really forged a lot of great friendships,” Pickett-Heaps said.
Dutchwoman Monique Zeldenrust was also overjoyed to reach the finish line after winning the women’s race overall and watching her father Martin also complete the journey.
Zeldenrust decided to make the trip to Australia after her father saw an article about the Crocodile Trophy in a European magazine and suggested it would be a good adventure.
”I’m happy that I win it, I didn’t come here to win, it was for an adventure,” Zeldenrust said. “I loved the areas that we go to, there was one day where everything went wrong, there were fires, in the morning you don’t know what you will see the next day, I really like that.”
Dutchman Bart Brentjens admitted to feeling a little empty at race end, a feeling that isn’t un-usual after ten days of non-stop effort.
At Cape Tribulation, the Olympic and World Cham-pion repeated his vow to return, with the aim of going one step higher on the final podium.
v“It’s always a sad feeling actually, you’ve been rid-ing your bike for ten days, then all of a sudden it’s all over,” Brentjens said.
“Next year I will come back.”
Race winner Urs Huber, who has maintained an iceman like concentration during much of the race, couldn’t stop smiling as the peloton rolled into Cape Tribulation. The Swiss cyclist is eager to return to the event and while next year his focus will be on winning a World Marathon Championship, a return to the Crocodile Trophy at some point in the future is likely.
“It’s really a great feeling, and to arrive at the finish here at beautiful Cape Tribulation is great,” Huber said.
“It was really a great place where the race was, the first stage was the best.”
Full results at www.crocodile-trophy.com