Dutchman Bart Brentjens today launched a determined assault on the race leader’s jersey of Swiss cyclist Urs Huber and in the process claimed his fourth stage victory as the Crocodile Trophy reached Mount Mulgrave Station in Australia’s remote Outback.
The former World and Olympic champion chose the perfect moment to attack on a stage littered with seemingly never-ending obstacles, including stony creek crossings, deep sand patches and blinding bulldust.
Brentjens and Huber were part of a four-man lead group, also containing Belgian Mike Mulkens and Australian Josh Prete, that held together until hitting deep sand at the 100 kilometre mark.
“I saved as much energy as I could until the big river cross-ing that everybody was afraid of,” Brentjens said after one of the toughest victories of his career.
“It was like 5k’s of really deep sand before the crossing and everybody was struggling a little bit.”
Brentjens attacked Huber in the stony, dry river bed of the Mitchell River, a crossing Crocodile Trophy competitors in previous years have had to swim across.
“Nobody got away until the last few hundred metres through the river, it was some walking parts, big rocks, stones, no water anymore,” Brentjens said.
“On the other side we had to climb up out of the river and I got a gap.”
Ten kilometres out from the finish, with the gap between himself and Huber growing, the Dutch-man appeared to have the on-course lead. That was until ‘the man with the hammer’ whose pres-ence at the Crocodile Trophy is feared, hit Brentjens from above.
“I gave everything I had for like 25k’s, at the beginning it was really good, I had power, but I died the last 5k’s,” Brentjens admitted. “The man with the hammer, I was totally black, my feet were burning and my head, I couldn’t see nothing.
“I was so lucky that I saw the finish and I had a small gap but he’s (Huber) a tough guy.”
Huber finished the marathon 137 kilometre stage clearly the fresher of the two main GC Contenders. He also managed to limit the damage inflicted by Brentjens to around forty seconds, with the time gap between himself and The Dutchman standing at one minute and six seconds.
“Yes today was not the high temperatures the problem, my prob-lem was the sand, Brentjens is very strong in the sand,” Huber admitted posts-stage.
“Thirty kilometres before the finish he attacked and came in the front. It did not look good for me but the last ten kilometres I came more near to him.”