Crocodile Trophy Stages 1-3 Urs Huber and Sarah White defend Elite leads

Words by Crocodile Trophy | Images by Crocodile Trophy

STAGE 1 – Smithfield (5×6.5km laps/33km/900m)

Italy takes the lead at 21st Crocodile Trophy

The Italian Nicolas Pettina wins the first stage of the Crocodile Trophy with a respectable lead of 3:18.07 minutes at Smithfield MTB Park in Cairns ahead of Urs Huber from Switzerland and the Australian Brendan Johnston. It was a hot start to the nine-day mountain bike stage race in Tropical North Queensland and the local racer Sarah White took full home advantage, taking an almost 6 minute lead in the elite women’s against the German Regina Genser.

Nicolas Pettina

Nicolas Pettina

Nicolas Pettina credited not only his cross-country race background for his win against one of the most high-profile elite men’s line-up in the history of the Crocodile Trophy. He also blamed a lucky charm – with his luggage still lost in transit he raced in the event cotton t-shirt and is cheekily contemplating keeping it that way.

“Today was a great start to the race, I love racing these kinds of trails – they suit my cross-country background extremely”, the Italian National Marathon U23 Champion said at the finish of today’s race, that he completed in 1h30:42.98 and which included five laps of a 6.5 km circuit at the Smithfield MTB Park just outside of Cairns. 

Crocodile Trophy promotes mountain bike destination Tropical North Queensland internationally

Tourism Tropical North Queensland Chief Executive officer Alex de Waal said the Croc Trophy attracted widespread international media coverage, which was invaluable to the Cairns & Great Barrier Reef region.

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“Mountain bike enthusiasts around the world know Ride Cairns is a world-class mountain biking destination with exciting trails across a diverse range of landscapes, including World Heritage rainforest, thanks to the publicity generated by the Croc Trophy,” he said.

“This helps raise the profile of Cairns and Great Barrier Reef as a must-do destination for recreational riders and encourages travellers to explore our region further.”

Urs Huber from Switzerland proofs that the event’s powerful media campaign with distribution of reports, photos and videos all over the world not only attracts new racers every year, but also tempts them to come back. Ever since winning this event in 2009 and 2010, the Swiss Marathon Champion Urs Huber had wanted to race the Crocodile Trophy again.

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Greg Saw and Matthias Grick

“Following the race reports and the transformation of the event since them made me curious to race all the different terrains that are included now – I extremely enjoyed the Smithfield trails today”, he said and admitted that the hot temperatures and midday sun were tough on the body, but added that he was excited about the coming days and the challenges ahead, which will include bridging the almost three and a half minutes gap to Pettina.

The Australian National Marathon Champion Brendan Johnston took out the third spot today (+3:35.69 min) and said that he was looking forward to tomorrow’s marathon stage from Cairns onto the Atherton Tablelands. 

Local lead in elite women’s

Two riders are competing in the elite women’s category in this year’s race – today Sarah White from Cairns took full advantage of racing on her home track and won against the German marathon-athlete Regina Genser only 23 minutes behind the men’s winner in a time of 1h53:39.92. “I tried to stay calm today and had a strong race”, said the 35-year old local rider and added that she would relax on the beach this afternoon ahead of tomorrow’s second stage, which will take the riders to Lake Tinaroo on the Atherton Tablelands. 

After a neutral start at The Esplande in the centre of Cairns at 9:30am, the official race start will be 12 km outside of town and the total elevation to cover will be 1500 m.

TOP RESULTS ELITE MEN:

1. Nicholas Pettina (ITA) #7 // Gruppo Sportivo Forestale // 1h30:42.98

2. Urs Huber (SUI) #3 // Team Bulls // 1h34:01.05 + 3:18.07 min

3. Brendan Johnston (AUS) #4 // Trek Racing Australia // 1h34:18.67 + 3:35.69 min

4. Sören Nissen (DEN) #8 // Stevens Racing Team // 1h34:53.44 + 4:10.46 min

5. Milton Ramos (ESP) #6 // Intense Tow-Car // 1h35:23.60 + 4:40.62

 

TOP RESULTS ELITE WOMEN:

1. Sarah White (AUS) #114 // Astute Financial Racing // 1h53:39.92

2. Regina Genser (GER) #113 // CRAFT – Rocky Mountain Team // 1h59:25.30 +5:45.38 min


STAGE 2 – Cairns-Atherton (74km/1500m)

Urs Huber takes overall race lead with stage win at Lake Tinaroo

Urs Huber (SUI) claimed today’s stage win at Lake Tinaroo ahead of Denmark’s National Marathon Champion Sören Nissen and yesterday’s winner, Nicholas Pettina (ITA). The Australian Brendan Johnston finished ex aequo in fourth with double-Crocodile Trophy winner Ondrej Fojtik from the Czech Republic. The Australian elite female, Sarah White, increased her race lead in the women’s to a respectable 23 minutes, winning her second consecutive stage ahead of Germany’s Regina Genser.

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Johnston Dam

Soren Nissen

Soren Nissen

Today’s second stage of the Crocodile Trophy was a 74km marathon from Cairns onto the Atherton Tablelands. After a 12km neutral ride through the tropical city on a misty morning, the climbing started and the official race start for just before Copperlode Dam, the town’s water reservoir. Being used to training and racing in the European Alps, the Swiss marathon athlete Urs Huber coped with the 1500m of elevation and early wet conditions well. After 2h28:13 he crossed the line, just half a minute ahead of the Dane Soren Nissen.

“After losing a bit of time yesterday, I knew today I’d get the chance to make up for it”, said Huber. “The Danish and Italian riders kept up with me all day and just before the finish I attacked and was able to stay ahead of Nissen”, he recounted.

The two had a good gap to yesterday’s winner from Italy, Nicholas Pettina who finished in just over two and a half hours with a gap of about five minutes. The Czech Ondrej Fojtik and Australia’s Brendan Johnston followed ex aequo with a gap of almost seven minutes.

This result shakes things up in the overall standings – Huber takes over the race lead and has a gap of 1:24 minutes ahead of Nissen. Pettina is in third ahead of Johnston and Ondrej Fojtik.

Sarah White puts a line in the sand: 23 minute gap after two stages

In the women’s classification, Cairns-racer Sarah White increased her gap to the German Regina Genser to 23 minutes. Coping with the conditions well and banking on her knowing the trails through the Dinden State Forest and Barron Creek National Park well she can rest easy tonight on the shores of the picturesque Lake Tinaroo.

Notably missing from today’s stage plan was the grueling climb over Mt Edith, which is dreaded by returning Crocodile Trophy racers. “We work closely together with local councils, mountain bike clubs and riders who always give us input about more ideal and sometimes new routes. Over the last three to four years our stage plan has evolved and has been very popular with our racers. But we like to keep it fresh and interesting too”, said organiser Gerhard Schoenbacher who founded this iconic race in 1994.

For now the Crocodile Trophy will set up camp in Atherton until Wednesday morning. After an 18km neutral ride from Lake Tinaroo to the town of Atherton, tomorrow’s stage will have two 27km loops in the Atherton Mountain Bike Park in store for the racers. With the so typical bush single trails it has become one of the most popular cycling destinations in Australia. The race with then set up camp for two nights on a nearby farm for a classic 80km marathon through the Herberton State Forest on Tuesday.

STAGE 2: TOP RESULTS ELITE MEN:

1. Urs Huber (SUI) #3 // Team Bulls // 2h28:13

2. Sören Nissen (DEN) #8 // Stevens Racing Team // 2h28:44 +00:31 sec

3. Nicholas Pettina (ITA) #7 // Gruppo Sportivo Forestale // 2h33:04 +04:51 min

4. Ondrej Fojtik (CZE) #17 // Force KCK / Progress Cycles // 2h35:06 +06:53 min

4. Brendan Johnston (AUS) #4 // Trek Racing Australia // 2h35:06 +06:53 min

STAGE 2: TOP RESULTS ELITE WOMEN:

1. Sarah White (AUS) #114 // Astute Financial Racing // 3h42:07

2. Regina Genser (GER) #113 // CRAFT – Rocky Mountain Team // 4h00:03 +17:56 min

OVERALL: TOP RESULTS ELITE MEN:

1. Urs Huber (SUI) #3 // Team Bulls // 4h02:14

2. Sören Nissen (DEN) #8 // Stevens Racing Team // 4h03:37 +01:23 min

3. Nicholas Pettina (ITA) #7 // Gruppo Sportivo Forestale // 4h03:46 +01:32 min

4. Brendan Johnston (AUS) #4 // Trek Racing Australia // 4h09:24 +07:10 min

5. Ondrej Fojtik (CZE) #17 // Force KCK / Progress Cycles // 4h11:50 +09:36 min

OVERALL TOP RESULTS ELITE WOMEN:

1. Sarah White (AUS) #114 // Astute Financial Racing // 5h35:46

2. Regina Genser (GER) #113 // CRAFT – Rocky Mountain Team // 5h59:28 +23:42 min


Stage 3 – Atherton Mountain Bike Park

59 (77) km / 1300 (1500) m

Urs Huber and Sarah White defend Elite leads in Atherton today

Urs Huber scores his second stage win at the 2015 Crocodile Trophy ahead of the Australian Brendan Johnston and the Italian Nicholas Pettina. Sarah White stays in the overall women’s lead with a third consecutive stage win in Atherton today.

Urs Huber

Urs Huber

The most typical terrain that you would encounter as a mountain biker in Australia are narrow trails, lots of small pinch climbs and to make a local rider’s heart skip a beat, they are packed with rocky sections, tight corners, switchback climbs and big berms. The first reactions in the finish of the two top elite men’s finishers reflect this uniqueness nicely: 

Urs Huber said that it was the toughest Crocodile Trophy stage he’d ever ridden and that’s coming from a two-time winner of this iconic race. “My whole body aches, especially my lower back, that was hard work today”, he said after a race time of 3h01:57. 

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With 39 seconds gap in second was Australia’s Marathon Champion, Brendan Johnston – according to him today “was exactly what I love about mountain biking – I’d rather do 100km on this sort of terrain than race on a road or fire trail”. 

The 24-year old rider from Canberra, who is holding the leader jersey of the fastest Australian in the race, explained that it was his first stage race that runs over such a long distance and that his strategy was to take one day at a time. “Urs [Huber] and I race together all day today and with 2km to go he attacked. My plan is to race a smart race, we still have six stages to go and the really long days are still ahead”, said Johnston, who kept his overall fourth spot.

Brendan Johnston

Brendan Johnston

Asked how he was coping with the Crocodile Trophy camp life he said that it was an additional challenge, because you had to be organised, but that he enjoyed it. “I’ve heard so much about this event in the past and this is all part of it.”

Italy’s Nicholas Pettina was again in third with a gap of 2:39.6 min to Huber. He praised the trails and said he enjoyed race in Atherton and that he was content to still get a podium spot today and moves up the overall ranking into second spot ahead of Denmark’s Soren Nissen, who finished fifth today behind Spain’s Milton Ramos.

Sarah White still feeling strong after stage three

The Cairns local racer was again in her element today. “This was just too much fun today”, she beamed after 4h06:24 back at the event centre. “Don’t get me wrong, it was tough and when we were on top of the first climb rain set in, which made some of the rocks really slippery. It took all my skill to stay upright and I’m glad I could keep my lead”, she admitted and added that she was respectful ahead of tomorrow’s stage in the Herberton State Forest and even though she now has a 37:26 minute lead, she indicated that she was still watching two German women closely.

Sarah White

Sarah White

One of them is the elite Regina Genser, who finished in second with a gap of 13:44 min today. Still buzzing with excitement she recounted her race in the finish: two crashes, a flat tire and a slipped chain, but she said she was happy and still couldn’t believe what was on the menu for the riders today, “I’ve never ridden so much single track in one go ever! You don’t get that in Europe anywhere, especially not in a marathon, what an experience!” She added that tomorrow’s stage should suit her, “I don’t mind climbing.”

Strong field of amateur riders impresses also in overall rankings

The second rider to watch is Kristin Endres, the amateur female racer from Darmstadt who actually held the second position outright among the women after yesterday’s stage. A considerable number of riders suffered mechanicals on the tough terrain, she said, but was spared herself. “I love riding on single trails and in the forests near my home and the second half of today’s loop was so scenic and pretty – I was flying, it felt like dancing. But it was tough and towards the end it was almost overwhelming”, she said. Today she finished in 4h29:32.6 and leads the women’s amateur category by almost one and a half hours. These women don’t leave anything out on track and are racing hard every day.

The leader jersey for the amateur men stays with Germany’s Christian Leschke from Nuremberg; he leads ahead of fellow A2/30+ racers from Australia, Lincoln Carolan (+59 sec) and Bart Duraj (+12:30 min).

Tomorrow’s stage profile includes massive climbs taking the riders from Atherton onto the top of the Great Dividing Range in the Herberton State Forest and will be a classic 80km marathon with 2200m of elevation.

STAGE 3: TOP RESULTS ELITE MEN:

1. Urs Huber (SUI) #3 // Team Bulls // 3h01:57.0

2. Brendan Johnston (AUS) #4 // Trek Racing Australia // 3h02:35.8 +38.8 min

3. Nicholas Pettina (ITA) #7 // Gruppo Sportivo Forestale // 3h04:36.6 +2:39.6 min

4. Milton Ramos (ESP) #6 // Intense- Tow Car // 3h06:59.2 +5:02.2 min

5. Sören Nissen (DEN) #8 // Stevens Racing Team // 3h07:19.0 +5:22.0 min

STAGE 3: TOP RESULTS ELITE WOMEN:

1. Sarah White (AUS) #114 // Astute Financial Racing // 4h06:24.0

2. Regina Genser (GER) #113 // CRAFT – Rocky Mountain Team // 4h20:08.0 +13:44.0 min

OVERALL: TOP RESULTS ELITE MEN:

1. Urs Huber (SUI) #3 // Team Bulls // 7h04:11

2. Nicholas Pettina (ITA) #7 // Gruppo Sportivo Forestale // 7h08:22 +4:11 min

3. Sören Nissen (DEN) #8 // Stevens Racing Team // 7h10:56 +6:45 min

4. Brendan Johnston (AUS) #4 // Trek Racing Australia // 7h11:59 +7:48 min

5. Milton Ramos (ESP) #6 // Intense- Tow Car // 7h17:29 +13:18 min

OVERALL TOP RESULTS ELITE WOMEN:

1. Sarah White (AUS) #114 // Astute Financial Racing // 9h42:10

2. Regina Genser (GER) #113 // CRAFT – Rocky Mountain Team // 10h19:36 +37:26 min

For rider lists and results, visit www.crocodile-trophy.com

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