The great Dutchman Bart Brentjens today recorded his second Crocodile Trophy stage victory after outsprinting Swiss marathon specialist Urs Huber to the finish line of a gruelling 157 kilometre Outback marathon from Irvinebank to Chillagoe.
Brentjens was forced to call upon all of his energy reserves during the longest stage of Australia’s Outback classic, after puncturing at the 20 kilometre mark and riding himself back into the lead group.
In the end pure class shone through as Brentjens and Huber stepped on the gas, leaving in their wake the big talking Jure Robic, who had designs on winning the Chillagoe stage for the fourth time.
“It actually was a really long day on the bike, from the beginning it was really rough, lots of stones on the descent, pretty techni-cal,” Brentjens said.
“I had a flat tyre after I think 20k, so I changed my tyre and then I came back, but still it was a long way to Chillagoe.”
Taking into account time bonuses, Brentjens managed to peg back the margin between himself and Huber on the general classification to 1 minute and 57 seconds.
Brentjens will scan the race road book tonight, searching for technical sections to attack Huber over coming days, but may have to wait until the sandy Mount Mulgrave Laura stage in three day’s time for a serious assault on the race lead.
“Today at the end it was not technical enough to make a difference so we had to sprint for the victory,” Brentjens said. “Hopefully there will be some more technical parts later in the race.”
Considered one of the serious threats for today’s stage given his grinding ability on a parcours that clearly suited his attributes, Australian Steve Rankine of the Tropical Tableland Discovery Team could only wonder what might have been on a day when just about everything that could go wrong, went wrong.
The 28-year-old former professional triathlete couldn’t remem-ber a day during his career when he had to call upon more mental toughness after suffering three flat tyres and crashing in grand fashion with the Crocodile Trophy media team rolling on the action.
Rankine and team leader Josh Prete were with the lead group when he suffered the first of three punctures.
“My legs were feeling great, I was climbing with the leaders and we were out miles ahead, I was helping my teammate Josh (Prete),” Rankine said.
Then came the spectacular crash as Rankine lost his front wheel at a dry creek crossing and finished up buried in the sand.
“By far, I can’t remember how many times I’ve had to dig deep, as an eventful race it would be definitely on the top,” Rankine recalled of his epic day in the saddle.
“I just seemed to able to find things were I couldn’t find it you know and every time I fell off and got knocked down I got back up.