Up until now Estonian superstar Jaan Kirsipuu has taken a back seat at the Crocodile Trophy. However, the flat terrain towards the bush outpost of Chillagoe suited him perfectly and he claimed his first stage win.
Austrian Philipp Ludescher came in second and Allan Oras (EST) followed in third.
It was in 1999 that Kirsipuu achieved the first Tour de France stage win for Estonia. In 2010 he succeeded in the Crocodile Trophy with a finishing time of 4:55.03. Just like in his prime as a sprinter, the elevenfold Estonian Champion prevailed on 157 long, but mostly flat kilometres against seven opponents. Fellow Estonian Allan Oras completed the fantastic team result with a third place.
“To be the stage winner feels great," said Kirsipuu. "Especially because I thought that Bart would be the right man in the right place of that finishing corner. That's why I had tried to get away several times for the last 5 kilometres and I succeeded at the third attempt."
So far he had been “only” the leader of his age masters category, but now Kirsipuu is keen. “The coming flat stages should suit me even better”, he said, obviously fancying a few more top rankings.
Whilst racers kept coming across the finish line, Sydney-rider Peter Clayton from Dee Why sat in the emergency room of Mareeba hospital. He had crashed 15km before the third depot and arrived there with terrible pain in his hand. His supporting uncle took him to get X-rays done – diagnosis: broken thumb. However, the determined Croc-racer didn't want to give up. He had his uncle drop him off again and he continued his race from where he had been forced to pause it. As the last rider of the day, he finally crossed the finish line with a cheeky smile.
“I was determined to continue the race and the doctors gave me the OK to do so. It hurts a little, but I am enjoying the riding too much to stop now.“
He was welcomed warmly by the Croc-Trophy camp and Gerhard Schoenbacher who recognised Peter's determination during the prize ceremony. “What a demonstration of sportsmanship this was”, he said as he and the first rider to cross the finish line, Jaan Kirsipuu, gently shook Peter's hand and wished him well for the remaining four stages of the race.
Today's second Philipp Ludescher (AUT) makes no secret about his ambitious goals in the general classification. “I'd like to improve my performance”, he said.
After he had been chased by bad luck and mechanical breakdowns yesterday, today's stage from Irvinebank to Chillagoe was a nice compensation. “To ride in the leading bunch is definitely more fun than to hang around the sweeper truck. But it is also a lot more exhausting."
After having endured the first sandy race stage of his career, the elite road rider was in his element on the last 56km, which consisted mostly of bitumen roads. In the final sprint, which was riddled with attacks he was able to prevail against riders like Bart Brentjens (NED) and Mike Mulkens (BEL).
McSabotage team mate Rene Haselbacher in turn dropped off the lead group on the mid section of the stage, which featured eroded trails of a historic railway, and came across the finish line with the chaser group along with Carinthian rider Christoph Sokoll.
Solo ride not rewarded
The unfortunate hero of the day was the overall leader Urs Huber (SUI). He was chased down after 150km on his own at the front. However, having doubted the success of his solo escape himself whilst riding, he contained his disappointment.
“Actually, that wasn't really my intention," he said. "However, no-one came with me at the climb, and when I was still on my own after 100 kilometres and the wind in my back, I decided to try the impossible.”
It seems the Canadian Cory Wallace has been dogged by bad luck. After two flat tires yesterday and being third overall at the start of the stage, he had to let the leader group go again due to a tire failure and came in 35 minutes behind.
The Crocodile Trophy continues to work out well for the Australian rider Abby McLennan. The 30-year old secured her fourth stage win in 6:21.14. She was in good hands in a 12-rider strong group and had even time to enjoy the unique views from Mt Misery across the Great Dividing Range.
Fastest Australian was again Taigh Banson who currently holds the 6th place in the Elite category and 7th overall. Like on previous days he is followed by M3 riders Hans Dielacher who leads the category and Roger Cull who is second. James Lamb is currently in 15th position in elite and on 28th overall after a great stage, which he thoroughly enjoyed.
“I actually got to enjoy the views and the track along the old railway line was just out of this world”, he said.
Within the Masters 1 category the fastest Australian is Skerke Brendon from Team Rattle N Hum with a 16th place in the category and a overall 41st place, followed by Sydney-rider and “Austro-Australian”, Martin Wisata, who is 18th in the category and 44th overall after today's stage.
Ultra-marathon rider Franz Preihs is smiling again since his arrival at the small village of Chillagoe. His frame had cracked due to the extreme demands of the first stages. “Focus left no stone unturned to send me a new frame, which will allow me to get to the start line of tomorrow's stage with top gear again”, said the happy rider, currently fourth in the M1 category.
Meanwhile, the “race after the race” has begun in the Croc-Trophy camp: after beautiful sunshine throughout the day and temperatures of 30 degrees (which is still quite tame for the North-East of Australia), heavy rain and wind gusts made the riders chase clean laundry, close up tents and collect bits and pieces protecting them from the water.