A betting man or woman would have pinpointed today’s stage around Skybury as the day when a breakaway might finally succeed. Flatter terrain, wide open dirt roads and plenty of kilometres to make it happen. A break should have won. That’s what a roadie would say but the Croc ain’t no road race.
Words: Alex Malone
Images: Crocodile Trophy / Igor Schifris & Alex Malone
It was announced last night, shortly after dinner and the awards ceremony, that all remaining stages would start at 9am, instead of 8am. A change in such details at another event or race is a rarity, at best. If anything, stages or events are often started earlier, perhaps due to an incoming weather front or expected heat wave. But not at the Croc.
After yesterday’s relentless downpour, today’s forecast was what we expected when signing up to this race. Heat, sun, open trails and corrugated outback roads.
These roadies eyes lit up when scouring the race program the night prior. It would be another long one of 125km but with far less climbing. With the top two placings on the general classification more or less defined, with just the order being up for grabs between Leandre Bouchard and Andrew L’Esperance, it looked perfect for a breakaway to get their time in the Queensland sun. From the gun, riders tried their luck to escape the bunch but with little success. That was of course, until Erik Dekker picked just the right moment to make his move. Unwilling to let the former Dutch road TT champion ride away, L’Esperance and Bouchard gave chase.
And then there were three.
Behind, groups formed and splintered as the high-pace start caused riders to take line choices they otherwise would have avoided. Punctures were the early order of the day with fourth-place overall Ondrej Slezak succumbing to a number of inflationary issues. Hiroyuki Okamoto from Japan, saw much of his great work over the past days evaporate as he too punctured from the chase group. Haley Smith also suffered an untimely puncture that otherwise would have seen her no doubt finish inside the top-10 on the stage.
Eventually we found ourselves in a nice six-man group that continued to work together throughout the day – not without the odd squeeze and disagreement of course.
The final 30km, back at our first checkpoint earlier in the day, was when our group came alive. Small accelerations did little to split the group until the final kilometres of the stage when stage placings and prized boomerangs (given to category winners) was up for grabs.
Having made the mistake yesterday of going too soon when entering the technical and twisty Skybury finish, this time I wouldn’t be denied the small victory. The boomerang would be mine.
In a first for the Croc, Erik Dekker would become the oldest winner (and I believe only Amateur rider) to win a stage. I guess the guy know a thing or two about winning bike races.
Now, the ‘Most Australian’ jersey looms just on the horizon…
Stage 5 – Details
Strava activity: https://www.strava.com/activities/1192463086
Total elevation: 1,666m (corrected)
Calories burned: 5,399
Maximum temperature: 37 degrees
Water consumed: 9 (six litres approx)
Stage 5 – Results
See full results here: http://my3.raceresult.com/80618/results?lang=en#1_8513F3