Mt Mulligan – Mt Mulgrave: 189km
When people think of the Croc Trophy, and like me say that they will never ever do it because it is just too hard and stupid, they have visions of today’s stage. And it is worse than you imagine. It was so hot I wouldn’t be surprised if I hear on the news when I get back to civilisation that the sun has moved closer to Earth. And at 189km it wouldn’t look out of place on the Tour stage listing either.
We rolled out of the beautiful campsite by the waterhole at Mt Mullgan station and turned onto the road to head further out into the unknown and probably the most remote stage finish in the race. The pace started out pretty steady with a few surges into the obligatory cross-headwinds. The bunch remained as big as it has been on any stage for quite a while before the road-Meisters René and Kevin decided that they could go it alone and launched off the front with a few others.
At the first river crossing, in the middle of which the Euro teens had killed the 4WD and stranded the water for the next water station, Urs pressed the pace and caused a split in the bunch. Mike and I hit the rev limiter for a few ks and eventually when things slowed a little got back on. At the next river crossing there was a repeat performance but this time there was no regrouping and the once large bunch was smashed to pieces and small groups left to trudge home parched and pain filled.
The Subaru MarathonMTB crew faired pretty well from an extremely tough day out. At times we were together but towards the end settled into our various groups. I managed to stick with Ashley one of the other M1 contenders and came home in 8th. Justin and Mike came in in groups only a short way back so we should consolidate our lead in the teams category. It was a day for the old man of the team it seems!
The battle for overall honours has heated up with the Milka Kid, Jerone putting some good time into The Ursenator. The early break of the day didn’t survive with flat tyres leaving riders cooking by the roadside. Brad Davies had some really bad luck today with 5 flats meaning that the Subaru MarathonMTB team may take the Masters jersey. Would have been nicer to have beaten the thunder out of him than stolen it, but as the old cliché goes – that’s racing.
We’ve set up camp near the Mitchell River in the middle of nowhere tonight. It is still hot. Justin lay down about 3 hours ago and hasn’t moved. Mike, I am pretty sure had a bit of a cry behind a tree about an hour ago and I have just managed to get up off the stretcher to write this. I can’t talk and am battling to press the keys down to type. The whole camp looks like a retirement village for sloths. Or a Euro beach party depending on whether you are a rider or support crew.
Tomorrow is another day, but that is for tomorrow. First rule of Croc Trophy: no talk of the next day, only the day that was. The locker door is ajar but only just!