An audacious attack by Annemiek van Vleuten surprised the entire Crocodile Trophy field on today's stage six - only young Stef de Louwere from The Netherlands went with her. Stage win for de Louwere, van Vleuten finishes second outright. Huber keeps overall race lead ahead of Carabin with two stages to go.
Right from the start the lead group around race leader Urs Huber from Switzerland seemed a bit passive - the shortest stage of the Crocodile Trophy had been considered a rest stage for many of the racers.
Not so for Annemiek van Vleuten. Today it was time for revenge for the 34-year old Dutch Olympic road racer, who suffered bad luck twice in a row, missing turns on the past two stages, loosing her overall women's lead and a lot of time after good gaps each day.
Audaciously she attacked the entire Crocodile Trophy field this morning on the 50km flat stage through the Mareeba Wetlands with start and finish at the Skybury Coffee Plantation. And got away.
The 19-year old fellow Dutch road racer Stef de Louwere went after her, caught up and they worked together for the rest of the stage. A very emotional Stef de Louwere claimed the stage as one of the youngest ever to do so in 1:31:29 with Annemiek van Vleuten finishing less than a second behind him. Van Vleuten complimented her break-away companion as "working very hard today" and said he was a worthy stage winner.
In third today was Michel Meysman from Belgium who is racing in the A3 catgory, the 40+ age classification. He said that he wanted to get some time back from his opponents and thanks to the relatively short distance of the stage he was able to maintain the gap to his category riders until the finish, and is third in the race overall. He finished in a group with Urs Huber (SUI), the overall race leader, who came in fourth ahead of Sebastien Carabin (BEL).
With not much change in the overall standings generally, today's stage will certainly go down in Crocodile Trophy history - not every day that both the elite men's and elite women's winners cross the line right behind each other!
What the riders said:
Stef de Louwere NED
I had an amazing day, I was so afraid.... I was too scared to look back, so I didn't. I constantly thought they'll come...it's amazing. I'm so happy. Just before the finish Annemiek attacked and I waited a few minutes but then decided to go after her, I caught up and we worked together, it was great!
My background is road racing so, so far it's been very technical for me. Today it wasn't, so that was good for me. Normally I fall back in the downhill and have to work hard to catch up on the uphills, but today was just perfect for me.
The special thing about the Croc is the heat for me. It's so warm and always sandy and there are so many rocks. It's a country I've never been to before, my dad is here with me, it's our first time and this is a very special moment! I'll never forget it.
Annemiek van Vleuten NED
"I raced hard today, I stayed with the front group right from the start. Then they dropped the speed a little bit, I thought maybe they are thinking about tomorrow...so I decided, this is the time to attack. I did and Stef de Louwere came across to me and we worked together, he actually did a lot of the work, it was so nice to ride together.
"For two days I had ridden quite well and then twice I missed those turns and lost the leads with big advantages and also a lot of time, so finally I didn't have back luck - yesterday even, after surviving all the downhills, someone rode into my wheel on the asphalt and made me crash, just really back luck. So today was a good day for me - my revenge!
"I won't be able to get back to the GC lead anymore, so now I'll just go for the stage wins for the rest of the race. I look forward to getting a nice boomerang for the stage win again today, maybe again tomorrow."
Sebastien Carabin BEL
"It was a fast race, but a really tactical one. No one wanted to be at the front and push very hard. It was a different kind of race today. I will just keep pushing on and will see if it is possible to do something, Urs is very strong.
"But I like it here, this is a stage race like no other. It is like a big family here in the camp, you become friends with everybody. It's very comfortable, the food is good, the tracks are beautiful, the weather is good, it's nice. It's perfect to end the season."
Michel Meysman BEL
"I was trying to get away from my opponents in my category, and I was lucky that it was a short stage, I made it. I got third and am really happy.
"Apart from the second day I've really enjoyed every stage. I haven't had any problems.
"Now I'll go have a swim and enjoy this lovely afternoon."
Top Results Elite category:
Top Results Elite Men:
1. #6 Stef DE LOUWERE (Veco cycling team) / NED / 1h31:28.8
2. #1 Sebastien CARABIN (merida wallonie-Vojo Mag) / BEL / 1h34:52.2 +3:23.4
3. #11 Urs HUBER (Team Bulls) / SUI / 1h34:52.3 +3:23.5
4. #2 Matthias GRICK (KTM Ebner Transporte Cycling Team Graz) / AUT / 1h35:00.5 +3:31.7
5. #4 Michiel VAN AELBROECK (WMTB.be) / BEL / 1h35:04.7 +3:35.9
Top Results Elite Women Stage 6:
1. #22 Annemiek VAN VLEUTEN (Orica-AIS / Scott) / NED / 1h32:23.9
2. #25 Ruth CORSET / AUS / 1h40:50.6 +8:26.7
3. #21 Alice PIRARD (Merida-Wallonie MTB Team) / BEL / 1h44:52.7 +12:28.8
4. #23 Sarah KAEHLER (Astute Financial Racing Team) / AUS / 1h57:48.9 +25:25.0
Overall Results Stage 6 Elite Men:
1. #11 Urs HUBER (Team Bulls) / SUI / 19h33:55.3
2. #1 Sebastien CARABIN (merida wallonie-Vojo Mag) / BEL / 19h35:36.9 +1:41.6
3. #4 Michiel VAN AELBROECK (WMTB.be) / BEL / 20h36:40.8 +1h02:45.5
4. #3 Bas PETERS (MijnBadLiv/Giant offroad team) / NED / 20h40:51.8 +1h06:56.5
5. #10 Manuel PLIEM (Team KTM-RAD.SPORT.SZENE) / AUT / 20h45:28.0 +1h11:32.7
Overall Results Stage 6 Elite Women:
1. #21 Alice PIRARD (Merida-Wallonie MTB Team) / BEL / 25h23:01.6
2. #22 Annemiek VAN VLEUTEN (Orica-AIS / Scott) / NED / 26h33:53.6 +1h10:52.0
3. #25 Ruth CORSET / AUS / 26h36:09.9 +1h13:08.3
4. 23 Sarah KAEHLER (Astute Financial Racing Team) / AUS / 30h02:57.3 +4h39:55.7
High-res media photos:
Photos may be used online and in print for FREE for coverage about the Crocodile Trophy with image credits.
Photos: Crocodile Trophy/Regina Stanger
Click on each photo top left to download low-res file (800x500px).
Click on image caption below for high-res file or visit MEDIA PICTURES 2016 tab.
>> Stef de Louwere and Annemiek van Vleuten racing in the Mareeba Wetlands near Skybury Coffee Plantation today.
>> Huber at the front of the chase group in the Wetlands.
>> Stef de Louwere - stage winner at Skybury.
>> Annemiek van Vleuten - audacious attack: second outright.
>> Stef and his father Robert de Louwere at the finish in Skybury: a day to remember for a lifetime!
Media resources and links: