Copyright: Regina Stanger / Crocodile Trophy

Five Australians among the top ten finishers of today’s stage 4 at Skybury Coffee near Mareeba with Ondrej Slezak from Sydney coming across the line as outright third today. At the half-way mark of the 23 MEPT – Crocodile Trophy the Canadian Elite racer Leandre Bouchard maintains his race lead ahead of his closest rival, fellow Canadian Andrew L’Esperance. In the general classificatino the two lead by almost an hour ahead of the Dutch ex-pro road racer, Erik Dekker and have a gap of more than one and a half hours to the closest Elite racer, Hiroyuki Okamoto from Japan. The only Elite Woman Haley Smith is placed in 12th spot in the general classification and in fifth outright in the elite field after four stages.

At the half-way mark of the event, the camp has been set up at the beautiful Skybury Coffee Plantation. After an unusually rainy stage through the Outback across rough mining trails, for the riders it’s time now to relax, put their feet up and have coffee and cake. For two nights this tropical paradise near Mareeba will be home for the international field of riders and crew.

Five Australians finished in today’s top ten – Ondrej Slezak racing for the Quantum Team claims the third outright position with Daniel Beresford from Wagga Wagga in fourth ahead of Ben May (6th), Alex Malone (7th) and Peter Lister (9th).

General classification: Haley Smith in 12th outright

Haley Smith said that without other female races in the elite category, she was chasing the men. “I just like racing people, doesn’t really matter who”, she cheekily said, sipping coffee at Skybury. Currently in 12th position outright overall just like in today’s stage, her plan seems to be working well. Smith would have place fourth today in the elites outright.

In the general classification, L’Esperance stays on the wheel of Bouchard, maintaining the gap of 1:29.8 minutes. Together they lead by a margin of almost an hour after today’s stage ahead of amateur leader Erik Dekker (NED). Third in elites is now the Japanese rider Hiroyuki Okamoto with a fantastic third placing today (+1h36:52.3 in GC) with a retirement from the event by Russian National Marathon Champion Anton Sintsov who suffered a broken wheel in yesterday’s stage.

Sintsov’s retirement shows that the current standing is not set in stone yet, especially at a tough race like the MEPT – Crocodile Trophy. Rough terrain and long stages take their toll not only the equipment but on the riders as well. Race leader Leandre Bouchard said that he was not racing full gas as he needed to preserve his energy for the remaining days, “Doing it full-gas all the time would be tough. I just want to keep it safe, that helped a little bit to stay fresh and of course the mileage in my legs and the training over the years.”

He added that he had been nervous about the length of today’s 122km stage, but that it had more fast sections and the riders didn’t have to work as hard on the climbs, which had made the day a bit easier.

Rainy conditions cause Erik Dekker crash

Amateur leader Erik Dekker fell victim to the wet weather conditions, crashing again during today’s stage. He stayed unharmed, however, his bike suffered some damage and will be repaired overnight by the on-site race mechanic. Dekker still holds onto the amateur leader jersey, his rival, Australian Ondrej Slezak, however, was able to recover 10 minutes today; Dekker now leads the amateurs by 16 minutes ahead of Slezak.

Tomorrow the riders will do a marathon in the Mareeba region passing the Tyrconnell mine – the longest stage with 125km but “only” 1100vm of climbing.
Overall result Stage 4:

1. #3 Leandre Bouchard (CAN) / ELITE / BH SR Suntour KMC / 4h51:08.1
2. #4 Andrew L’Esperance (CAN) / ELITE / Forward Racing-Norco / 4h51:10.4 +2.3
3. #32 Ondrej Slezak (AUS) / A2 Master / Quantum Racing Team / 5h03:49.0 +12:40.9
4. #40 Daniel Beresford (AUS) / A3 Master / Team Cycle Station/Hammer Nutrition/Norco / 5h04:09.4 +13:01.3
5. #6 Hiroyuki Okamoto (JPN) / ELITE / INPULSE / 5h06:58.8 +15:50.7

Elite Men Stage 4:

1. #3 Leandre Bouchard (CAN) / ELITE / BH SR Suntour KMC / 4h51:08.1
2. #4 Andrew L’Esperance (CAN) / ELITE / Forward Racing-Norco / 4h51:10.4 +2.3
3. #6 Hiroyuki Okamoto (JPN) / ELITE / INPULSE / 5h06:58.8 +15:50.7
4. #9 Ben May (AUS) / ELITE / Bicycle Riders/Specialized/Infinit Nutrition / 5h12:31.0 +21:22.9
5. #8 Mike Blewitt (AUS) / ELITE / / 6h15:28.5 +1h24:20.4

Elite Women Stage 4:

1. #11 Haley Smith (CAN) / Norco Factory Team / 5h30:51.5

Amateur Women Stage 4:

1. Daniela Erni Ruoss (SUI) / 6h00:23.2

General classification ELITE Men after stage 4:

1. #3 Leandre Bouchard (CAN) / ELITE / BH SR Suntour KMC / 24h29:51.5
2. #4 Andrew L’Esperance (CAN) / ELITE / Forward Racing-Norco / 24h31:23.3 +1:31.8
3. #6 Hiroyuki Okamoto (JPN) / ELITE / INPULSE / 26h06:43.8 +1h36:52.3
4. #9 Ben May (AUS) / ELITE / Bicycle Riders/Specialized/Infinit Nutrition / 26h22:54.9 +1h53:03.4
5. #8 Mike Blewitt (AUS) / ELITE / / 27h49:04.0 +3h19:12.5

General classification ELITE Women after stage 4:

1. #11 Haley Smith (CAN) / Norco Factory Team / 27h02:57.9