2012 Crocodile Trophy: Surprise stage win by strong Czech racer Ivan Ribaric
Crocodile Trophy 2012
“The hardest, longest and most adventurous mountain bike stage race in the world.”
Stage 1, Lap race Smithfield
5 x 6km laps, 800m
Ivan Ribaric had won two stages at the infamous stage race in 2008 and showed a strong performance today, adding a third Boomerang to his collection at the lap race in Smithfield today. Belgian rider Mike Mulkens came in second and the Australian 24H Solo World Champion finished third and will be racing the Australian Leader’s jersey for Stage 2. All competitors had to complete 5 laps on the technically challenging 6km former World Cup course.
For the first time in Crocodile Trophy history a lap race kicked off the nine-day stage race in Cairns today. More than 130 riders were at the start, which included local Australian mountain bikers who competed with the stage racers in a public classification. Hosted by the local Cairns MTB Club the international field of racers rolled into Smithfield just before lunch time and the atmosphere was prickling with excitement.
Czech repeat stage win
All week all eyes had been on the Czech 2008 overall race winner Ondrej Fojtik, but it was Ivan Ribaric who quickly took the lead after the race start and kept it over five laps, crossing the finish line after 1:31.21. The pace among the lead riders was quick – Ribaric, Mulkens (BEL), Krenn (AUT),
Ribaric said that after winning two race stages in 2008 he was keen to perform well and kept an eye on his competitors at the start sprint. “I knew I had to attack early and I kept pushing hard and attacking as soon as I felt them coming closer.” Ribaric praised the Cairns track and said he had fun out on track and enjoyed the technical sections, however, was very guarded in regards to his hopes for a possible overall win this year. “It’s only day one and I am happy about my win, but I want to stay on the ground. There are another long eight days to go. This was just the warm up stage and we’ll have to wait and see what tomorrow brings.”
Ribaric teamed up with fellow Czech racer and import business partner Ondrej Slezak, who is based in Sydney, to prepare for the event. The team manager of Rubena Rocky Trail Racing, who finished in fifth place today, was content with his team’s performance: “I raced the Crocodile Trophy last year and loved the challenge! So this year we have eight riders racing here, including a team of two in the new Adventure category, which they are leading after today’s stage. I’m very proud of the boys, they did well – not only do we have a stage win in our pocket, we had another two second podium getters in M1 and M2. Now the main thing is to recover well for tomorrow’s race.”
Last year’s overall fourth, Mike Mulkens, was in close pursuit of Ribaric throughout the entire race, however, dropping back by about 15 seconds per lap and crossing the finish in 1:33.09. “The pace right from the start was like fireworks, full gas for every rider! It was pushing and smashing it hard to be first in the field, because you needed at least a top-ten position in the start sprint for a victory today. I was happy when I heard that I was in second place after Ivan Rybarik. He was too strong for me, especially on that kind of track, which isn’t my favourite.”
Australian leader’s jersey to Jason English
Third place went to the fastest Australian racer of the day, Jason English from Port Macquarie, who clocked in 1:33.30 after five laps. “I felt good today and kept riding, trying to stay in the front and to keep up with the number 1 and 2 racers. I didn’t get any lap split times so was very surprised when they told me I got third when I finished.” His plan for stage two he said was to take it easy and hopefully get into a riders group that is happy to work and race together, because there was still eight days to go.
Top favourites Wolfgang Krenn (AUT) finished fourth and Ondrej Fojtik (CZE) in sixth spot.
Wicked chase by Kate Major
The Australian triathlete and Iron-Man finisher Kate Major managed the most incredible pursuit
of the day. By accident riding into the wrong direction – South – out of Cairns in the morning to
warm up, Kate ended up 40 km away from the race venue. “When I realised I had ended up in
the wrong direction I knew all I could do was put the thumb out and hope that someone would
pick me and my bike up. I thought, the Aussie spirit is to help each other out and that I had
hitchhiked a lot when I was a teenager to get around. I had a nice lady stop for me who offered
to drop me off in Smithfield – wherever you are, thank you so much! I don’t know what I would
have done without her!”
In the end Major’s gap was three minutes and with sheer determination Kate caught up to the
field and started to overtake the other five female racers one by one. Kate won the female
category on the finish straight after five laps in 1:58.50, beating second Alice Pirard (BEL) by
only two seconds! Third was Jade Forsyth (AUS) in 2:13.01.
Stage 2 will start from the Cairns Lagoon at 9 am with the official riders presentation; race start
will be at 9.30 am and the field of Crocodile Trophy riders and about 15 racers in the open
classification will ride out on the 92 km marathon stage covering 2500m elevation across the
Atherton Tablelands to Lake Tinaroo.
Top Results Stage 1:
1. Ivan Ribaric / CZE / Rubena Rocky Trail Racing
2. Mike Mulkens / BEL
3. Jason English / AUS / RUOK? Rocky Trail Racing
1. Jeremy Ross / AUS / Crocodile Tears
2. Michal Kafka / CZE / Rubena Rocky Trail Racing
3. Jason Chalker / AUS / Crocodile Tears
1. Marc Baechli / SUI
2. Stephen Billington / AUS / Rubena Rocky Trail Racing
3. Pieter van Rooyen / USA
1. Milan Spolc / CZE
2. Luc Verlinde / BEL
3. Robrecht De Meyer / BEL / Fitopia Bikers
1. Kate Major / AUS
2. Alice Pirard / BEL / O2 Bikers – WMTB.be – Schwalbe
3. Jade Forsyth / AUS