• Leandre Bouchard won the opening stage of the Crocodile Trophy (Crocodile Trophy/Igor Schifris)Source: Crocodile Trophy/Igor Schifris
Renowned as one the hardest races in the world, the 23rd edition MEPT – Crocodile Trophy started with a lap race at Smithfield MTB Park in Cairns on Saturday. Haley Smith and Leandre Bouchard claimed a double victory for Canada in stage 1 in the elite categories.
17 Sep 2017 - 9:46 AM  UPDATED 17 Sep 2017 - 9:49 AM

The Canadian cross-country experts in Bouchard and Smith made the most of their expertise on the MTB course, taking the lead in the elite mens and womens categories respectively. 

The top three riders in the mens remained locked together for the first half of the race until Anton Sintsov, Russian National Cross-country Champion, lost valuable time due to a mechanical issue. He was able to fix it at the technical feed zone but couldn't catch up to Leandre Bouchard, U23 National Marathon Champion from 2014, who put in an attack on fellow Canadian Andrew L'Esperance on the final lap increasing his 10 second lead to a finishing gap of 1:30min.

More than a third of the rider field is Australian and in the overall results, Ondrej Slezak (amateur A2 category) claimed the fastest Australian time today for his Quantum Racing Team, coming in third overall ahead of the Russian Sintsov. He will be at the start tomorrow in the Australian leader jersey.

In fifth was fellow A2 and Australian racer Alex Malone. Erik Dekker, four time Tour de France stage winner and Dutch cycling icon won the masters amateur A3 category and came in sixth overall.

Haley Smith, ranked in 16th internationally by the UCI, won the Elite Women in a time of 1h54:39.1, with Aussie Yana Belamoyna just behind in second, though the pair were the only two riders in the category.

The Stage 2 marathon from Cairns to Lake Tinaroo include 2,100m of vertical gain throughout the 79km course on the Atherton Tablelands.