Day 6 of the 2017 Crocodile Trophy marks the start of our march towards the coast. For the past few years the Crocodile Trophy has ended at Port Douglas, instead of Cooktown, with a run from Wetherby Station down the Bump Track. This 2017 stage plan has us spend two nights at Wetherby Station, one of the main points on the route from Port Douglas to the goldfields in the 19th century.
We were going to make our way there by bike, not bullock train. And with about 102km and 1000m it was probably going to be pretty quick.
Head on into the Crocodile Trophy
We had to navigate our way off Skybury Coffee Plantation via farm roads, canal service roads and some tarmac. With a few accelerations, and an even amount of chases, the whole group stayed together at first.
But with a hard left hand corner into a farm trail, race leader Leandre Bouchard launched, and got a gap. 2nd placed rider Andrew l’Esperance chased right away, and soon enough Dan Beresford bridged across so there was a trio out front.
At times, it felt like the whole rest of the race was in one bunch. We criss-crossed across the farmland, moving from one side of the road or trail to the next, depending on the wind. In time, there were no more attacks.
Finally, an attack came from leading woman Haley Smith, who was clearly frustrated that the group wouldn’t roll turns, or even go very fast. But with a hard corner into a farm trail soon after her attack, it was quickly neutralised.
We crossed a main road and moved onto dirt roads, and finally some more undulations. Much of the route had been flat so far, and this brings two issues – no selection from the terrain, but also it keeps more riders from further back in the field closer to the front. And this makes plenty of people nervous, when riders who they haven’t been racing with are now moving fast in their bunch.
So the hills we hit, while not massive, were pretty useful. Surges and attacks begun, especially off a wooden bridge, and the race was strung out again. Soon enough, Ben may shot off the front. Then it was Malone and Okamoto, and Dekker. We hooked left onto rough double track and the race was on. Grant Webster flatted, riders got dropped and the pressure was on.
Out front Dan Beresford had dropped off l’Esperance and Bouchard. And Dekker, May, Okamoto and Malone scooped him up. The five of them worked with a good tempo through a pine plantation, and it wasn’t until the rainforest that it was clear Okamoto just wanted to make more watts. But it was an attack from Dekker at 15km to go that shelled Malone and Beresford. This left May and Dekker out with Okamoto, except he stopped at the final feed zone!
At Wetherby Station, l’Esperance was duelling with Bouchard, and won the sprint to take the stage. Ben may came in for a well earned 3rd. They clocked an average of about 30km/h – which is moving.
My day at the Crocodile Trophy
After all the splits, I ended up with some similar people to the past few days. Haley Smith, Peter Lister, Michael Wilson, Michael Kafka and others. I’d made a rookie mistake and didn’t pack quite enough food, which was catching up with me from about 60km onwards. I was done at 76km in and watched the group ride away in the dappled light in the rainforest.
It was tough to be left solo, but with a goal to finish it’s just what had to happen.
That group ahead had all sorts of issues, as Peter Lister crashed in the final descent, Smith was dropped and words were had between who was sitting on and who was making it all work.
There were no big changes today except in the Best Australian category, as Ondrej Slezak crashed out early in the day, so Dan Beresford will take the jersey in sub-optimal circumstances.
Up next at the Crocodile Trophy
Tomorrow we had back out of Wetherby the same way we came in, and into Twin Bridges, a loop through the rainforest which, according to the locals, has some sketchy bridges and plenty of wait-a-while vines.
In the mean time, we’re all treated to one of the better outback experiences you can have at the Crocodile Trophy. Wetherby Station has an immense view to the range, and the gardens around the Station are very relaxing. The sun is baking, but there’s shade, there are beers, there’s lunch – and everyone is having a pretty good time.