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Czech trio leads Crocodile Trophy

VIG+ Racing dominated Tuesday’s opening stage of the 2008 Crocodile Trophy, sweeping the men’s podium. The Czech team attacked immediately following the start of the 80km leg from Mareeba to Irvinebank, using all six team members to build a stage-winning lead before the race hit the first serious off-road section.

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Trunschka takes the early lead

Trunschka takes the early lead

Photo:

VIG+ Racing dominated Tuesday’s opening stage of the 2008 Crocodile Trophy, sweeping the men’s podium.

The Czech team attacked immediately following the start of the 80km leg from Mareeba to Irvinebank, using all six team members to build a stage-winning lead before the race hit the first serious off-road section.

VIG+ Racing, built around two-time Crocodile Trophy runner-up Ondrej Fojtik, showed it has a variety of weapons at the 2008 edition of Australia’s outback classic. Champion marathoners Ivan Rybarik and Martin Horak featured in the breakaway move, but it was Tomas Trunschka who stamped his name on the opening stage, crossing the finish line solo in a blistering time of 2:37:10. Fojtik and Horak finished 2:30 back, to make it an all-Czech podium.

“We decided to ride together as a team on the opening asphalt section, but when we went into the bush it was every man for himself,” Trunschka said.

Two-time runner-up Ondrej Fojtik finished second in the 2008 opener.

Two-time runner-up Ondrej Fojtik finished second in the 2008 opener.

Photo: John Flynn-Crocodile Trophy

The Czechs managed to put more than four minutes between themselves and their nearest international rival, Belgium’s Nicolas Vermeulen.

“It was very good and we are happy we place in the first three, but the race is very long and this is only one day,” Fojtik said. “We are six people and the other guys are one or two. It’s very important to have a team in this race and for me it is the first Trophy when I have a team.”

Vermeulen, the Belgian marathon champion and Australian Craig Gordon, the former world 24-hour solo champion, ended the day in fourth and sixth, respectively.

“That road section at the beginning, I was in the second group and the Czech guys went away with the Merida guys,” Gordon said. “As soon as we got to the dirt I picked my game up, but I was just caught napping.”

The challenge ahead for Gordon is to ride with intent on the flatter sections and wait for the mountains to pounce, but he admits the Czechs have a distinct advantage.

Belgian marathon champ Nicolas Vermeulen ended the day in fourth.

Belgian marathon champ Nicolas Vermeulen ended the day in fourth.

Photo: John Flynn-Crocodile Trophy

“If they’ve got four guys in the top GC it’s going to be very hard,” he said.

As for Vermeulen, he regretted letting the Czechs steal a march early on, but added that the race is far from over.

“The legs are good, not super for me,” Vermeulen said. “ I made a little mistake in the first kilometers, the first group rides away and I go, yes, no. I lost four or five minutes today but it’s not so bad; nine days to go yet.”

Australia’s top-rated team, Merida Flight Centre, had a difficult day on the road to Irvinebank. The team — Tim Bennett, Nick Both and Adrian Jackson — was forced to dig deep chasing down the Czech breakaway. And their day got a lot worse when Jackson crashed hard on a technical descent in the outback scrub west of Mareeba.

Aussie Adrian Jackson took a nasty digger that left him with wounds on his chin, one wrist and legs.

Aussie Adrian Jackson took a nasty digger that left him with wounds on his chin, one wrist and legs.

Photo: John Flynn-Crocodile Trophy

“Just on the really technical, rough descent I wasn’t paying attention enough and got in a rut and went over the hangers,” Jackson said, recounting his nasty crash. The Victorian is sporting a wound to his chin and cuts to his wrist and legs but will fight on, hoping to repay his teammates who stopped to check on his injuries.

Better news for Merida Flight Centre is the performance of Jo Bennett, who leads the women’s category by more than four minutes from Belgian Karen Steurs.

Bennett’s background in Ironman triathlons is sure to be a benefit as she looks to consolidate her position during Wednesday’s second stage, a 128km journey from Irvinebank to Koombooloomba dam.

Preliminary results
1. Tomas Trunschka, VIG+ Racing, Czech Republic
2. Ondrej Fojtik, VIG+ Racing
3. Martin Horak, VIG+ Racing
4. Nicolas Vermeulen, Belgium
5. Ivan Rybarik, VIG+ Racing
6. Bert Apers, Prorace, Belgium
7. Craig Gordon, Rockstar Racing, Australia


Stages 2008 Crocodile Trophy
Stage 1
Mareeba—Irvinebank 86km/1100m Tuesday, 21, October
Stage 2
Irvinebank—Koombooloomba 128km/1400m Wednesday, 22, October
Stage 3
Koombooloomba-Gunnawarra 122km/2235m Thursday, 23, October
Stage 4
Gunnawarra-Chillagoe 130km/900m Friday, 24, October
Stage 5
Chillagoe-Chillagoe 120km/850m Saturday, 25, October
Stage 6
Chillagoe-Mount Mulgrave 138km/800m Sunday, 26, October
Stage 7
Mount Mulgrave-Laura 148km/1100m Monday, 27, October
Stage 8
Laura-Cooktown 142km/1050m Tuesday, 28, October
Stage 9
Cooktown-Ayton 128km/1900m Wednesday, 29, October
Stage 10
Ayton-Cape Tribulation 48km/520m Thursday, 30, October

Photo Gallery

Results

Preliminary results
1. Tomas Trunschka, VIG+ Racing, Czech Republic
2. Ondrej Fojtik, VIG+ Racing
3. Martin Horak, VIG+ Racing
4. Nicolas Vermeulen, Belgium
5. Ivan Rybarik, VIG+ Racing
6. Bert Apers, Prorace, Belgium
7. Craig Gordon, Rockstar Racing, Australia