Starke – Cooktown: 128km
The last day, and we were all ready for it. Last night was later than expected, as dinner was delayed, and therefore the race presentation to celebrate Graeme´s fabulous 2nd place was skipped.
Talk abounded of a Gentlemans Agreement for the last stage. We had heard this was customary, and that sometimes the last rider on GC was allowed to win. But seeing as we had a 45km neutral ride into Cooktown following the official finish in Hope Vale, that probably wouldn´t happen. Brad Davies spread the word. He had spoken to race leader Jeroen Boelen (Milka-Trek), who was happy for a publicity break to go up the road, but come back around the water Depot – and then it would be race on.
And so it played out. There was groaning and swearing on the rough sections leaving Starke. No saddle, no chamois cream, no chamois can leave you comfortable after 10 days of racing and camping in the Far North Queensland outback. Martin Wisata and Roeland Suys were up the road, and were soon joined by Elite rider Chris Hellman. Their gap was impressive.
The headwind was biting, and after the bunch had been rolling along pretty comfortably, it was time to start winding it up as the Depot came into sight. The pace was upped after the Depot, but significant inroads into the breaks 3 minute gap came when Subaru-MarathonMTB.com´s Graeme Arnott took to the front, pinning it close to 40km/h through the farmlands and forest.
The break was then caught.
The pace stayed steady, but it was still a larger bunch than normal at the front of the race. Accelerations on the small hills did little to thin the bunch. Haselbacher launched up the road, and there was impetus to keep him in check. He was later joined by Kevin ’11′ Hulsmans. Mike Mulkens came around the bunch with a gap and set about inreasing it. Boelen lit it up with Josef Beneseder, and I did the best job I could with a welders mask to keep it in check, pulling off when I was pedaling in squares. My day was done.
The group ended up splitting up and coming together, then having counter attacks. In the end Jeroen took the win.
After a BBQ at Hope Vale, the bunch had a demoralising neutral roll into Cooktown. With managed speeds this took forever, and we finally arrived at Grassy Hill, above Cooktown, at 3:25pm.
Presentations were made. Graeme took the overall Masters Title. Justin was 5th on Elite General Classification, and Subaru-MarathonMTB.com took the Teams Classification.