Swiss mountainbiker Urs Huber today covered himself in glory by winning the Crocodile Trophy’s Queen stage from Laura to Cooktown and in the process further extending his race lead over the great Dutchman Bart Brentjens by 25 seconds.
The performance from the World Marathon Championship bronze medallist oozed class, on a day when the physical and mental capabilities of every rider remaining in the Crocodile Trophy were tested to the limit over a hellish 140 kilometre journey.
Conditions along the much feared Battle Camp Road between Laura and Cooktown proved to be far worse than predicted, with a fifty kilometre section of deep corruga-tions and sand, sapping all available energy from even the fittest and strongest of protagonists.
In the end, Huber, Brentjens and veteran Czech Milan Spolc prevailed as the race ventured headlong into the South-East tradewinds along the coast near Cooktown.
Timing his move to perfection, Huber launched an attack at the base of the steep 1 kilometre climb to the summit of Cooktown’s Grassy Hill, where he held his bike aloft to cele-brate a glorious stage victory.
“It’s very nice place and I know that the last kilometre to-day is good for me, so I concentrate for this,” Huber said as peered out across the Pacific Ocean.
“Bart pushed very hard in the corrugations after depot 2, I must fight to make contact with him.”
Huber took 20 seconds out of Brentjens on the climb and earned a further 5 seconds in time bonuses to extend his margin in the general classification to 1 minute and 26 seconds. Mike Mulkens of Belgium finished today’s stage in third after Spolc faded towards the finish.
The Swiss cyclist knows Brentjens will need to find something special on tomorrow’s mountainous and technical stage from Cooktown to Ayton to rope in his main rival.
But he also knows not to underestimate the class of the former Olympic and World Champion, who will attack in an instant if the right opportunity presents itself.
“I will fight with all I can,” Huber said. “The day tomorrow is good for me with steep climbs and good downhill, I think it’s a good stage for me.”
Ever the strategist, Brentjens again turned to studying his race book in the evening following today’s stage, searching for likely points along the technical zig-zag track to launch an attack.
At the same time, he was trying to recover from today’s pound-ing, which was one of the most brutal he has dealt with in a long and celebrated career.
“When the corrugations started they never ended it was more than thirty, forty k’s loose sand and corrugation, it was terrible to ride,” a weary Brentjens said. “I tried to get away from Urs Huber once, it was a good attack but he came back.”
Brentjens is certain of one thing for tomorrow’s stage nine, where the General Classification will be decided.