The great Dutchman Bart Brentjens today claimed his fifth consecutive Crocodile Trophy stage against a backdrop of searing heat, serious crashes and remarkable feats of endurance from com-petitors who struggled to reach the finish of the 151 kilometre journey from Mount Mulgrave to Laura.
With the mercury hovering above 45 degrees for most of the day, conditions were at the absolute extreme of what riders could tolerate on a day when they also had to negotiate stony trails, deep corrugations and sand patches on the Outback roads of Australia’s Cape York.
At the end of five agonising hours in the saddle, Brentjens finally managed to shake race leader Urs Huber, Belgian Mike Mulkens and Slovenia’s Jure Robic in a sprint finish. In the process he gained only a handful of seconds on time bo-nuses, with opportunities running out to haul in the race lead of the Swiss Huber, which stands at 1 minute and 1 second.
“That was long and hot, it wasn’t that good as it was supposed to be on the roadbook, pretty rough terrain, rough gravel, some loose parts , loose sand and the heat, the heat kills you every day,” a visibly exhausted Brentjens said.
“Urs, he was pushing the hammer down really hard from the river crossing, he already spent a lot of energy and I was on his wheel.”
Brentjens is looking to tomorrow’s Queen stage from Laura to Cooktown to possibly launch an attack on the overall race leader, who continues to hang on in the toughest of circum-stances.
“Definitely if there will be a chance I will do it, but today it was hot and I know from yesterday, I blew up before the finish,” Brentjens said.
“I try to make a good attack maybe tomorrow or the day after.”
Huber appears to be feeling more confident by the day, knowing the profile over the next two stages includes numerous hills, where the Swiss mountain man is most at home.
“I think today was the last flat stage so Brentjens have won five seconds again,” Huber said. “So I still have one minute in front overall and the next two days are with more mountains so I think that’s good for me.”