Australia’s Richie Porte gritted his teeth and delivered a brave performance to finish fifth on the most difficult stage yet of this year’s Tour de France which finished at the summit of Col de la Loze.
The final ascent to the summit finish was over 21 kilometres and the climb included gradients of 24 per cent
Richie Porte finished the stage fifth and moved to fourth overall in the general classification
Colombia’s Miguel Angel Lopez won the stage but Primoz Roglic extended his overall race lead
The fifth placing on the stage moved Porte up from sixth overall to fourth in the general classification as Colombia’s Miguel Angel Lopez took advantage of the high altitudes so familiar to him in his native country and sprinted clear in the final kilometres to take the stage victory.
The win moved him into third position overall behind yellow jersey wearer Primoz Roglic, who was second on the stage ahead of his nearest rival and fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogacar.
“I feel emotional because of the work done at home with my family, my wife, my son, I dedicate this victory to them,” Lopez said.
Lopez moved to within 1:26 of Roglic, who extended his lead over Pogacar to 57 seconds after the two engaged in an epic duel to the finish line, in which Roglic seemed to break his younger countryman’s spirit.
The pair, along with Porte and Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma teammate Sepp Kuss, had already engaged in a tough battle that started during the final ascent, which included gradients of 24 per cent on the final 21 kilometre climb.
“It was again a good day for us,” Roglic said.
“Of course, I always want to win but I gained some time and I saw that others had problems. I knew I could gain time today and that’s what we did.”
Painful climb to the finish
With four kilometres to go Kuss took off when the man who had led for much of the day — Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz — came back to the small chasing pack, but he was followed by Lopez who had far more speed.
Commentators speculated at the time that it was a poor move for Kuss to leave his teammate and yellow jersey wearer but Roglic confirmed it was all part of a plan.
“Also, the others tried to chase him back and it helped me realise many guys around me were struggling.”
Porte did well just to hang on for as long as he did, having been dropped a few metres off the back of Roglic and Pogacar as they sought to jostle for second, but on multiple occasions the Australian managed to get back on their tail.
However with two kilometres to go the Slovenians showed their class and finally dropped the dogged Australian, who eventually crossed the line with American Kuss.
Porte finished the stage in fourth overall on the general classification 3’05” behind Roglic and 1’39” behind third-placed Lopez
Fans ignore COVID-19 protocols
Present for the stage was French President Emmanuel Macron, but he was far from the only one and it would be hard to imagine that Tour organisers were happy with scenes that were beamed across the world as the leaders made the final climb.
This year’s Tour set against the backdrop of the global coronavirus pandemic has seen riders frequently tested and the usual crowds sparse, but that was not the case as large numbers of cycling fans closed in on the road and leaders during the final climb.
After the stage Mr Macron told reporters: “It’s extremely important to show that we can live with the virus.”
A new government body has joined forces with specialist waste facilities to take on the mammoth task of managing the explosion of clinical waste pouring out of Victoria’s COVID-19 positive aged care facilities.
The Victorian Aged Care Response Centre, a federal body set up in conjunction with state authorities, businesses and regulators, has been working at an accelerated pace to contain the estimated 100-fold increase in contaminated medical waste produced by facilities with positive cases of coronavirus.
There are currently 121 aged care facilities in Victoria with an active case of coronavirus, and with many of them used to managing just a fraction of the day-to-day clinical waste, PPE began to build up across Melbourne.
Potentially hazardous material had been piling up on street corners in bright yellow bags containing masks, gloves and surgical gowns that may have been contaminated with the coronavirus lining the streets of several suburbs.
In recent years there have been experienced hunters, well-equipped bushwalkers, campers and day trippers who have disappeared without trace.
With no concrete evidence of what happened, it is perhaps natural that rumours fill the void.
There have been theories including a paid hitman stalking the former governor of Barwon Prison, a couple fabricating their own disappearance and an accidental shooting where the victim was buried.
And it is why locals in the area speculate about a regular visitor who disappears into the mountains for months at a time known as Buttons or The Button-Man.
He is a flint-hard, expert bushman who earned his nickname from his habit of using deer antlers to make buttons and fashion large plugs for his ear piercings.
He has made a camp on the side of a remote mountain that lets him see anyone approaching, uses snares to catch deer and hunts with expertly crafted Indigenous-style spears.
Many campers and hunters have stories of the Button-Man emerging from the dark and approaching them at campsites. He is described as around 70, with short grey hair, wearing dark jackets and “bloody scary”. Others say he is “spooky”, but no one reports any threats or violence.
He will grill them on why they are there but rarely responds to questions about himself. They say he moves through the toughest terrain with the competence and stamina of someone half his age.
At least eight experienced bushmen have had encounters, with one saying he had a “thousand-metre stare that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up”.
They say no one knows he is near until he decides to make himself known. A wildlife photographer spent days taking shots in the area near the Button-Man’s camp. When he returned home and downloaded his photos to his computer there was one unexplained shot of the photographer asleep inside his tent. No one knows who took the shot.
For reasons known only to himself, the Button-Man builds rock pyramids in random spots and places piles of pebbles on roads to know if a car has passed.
Bushies who have stooked firewood supplies in hidden crevices have found their stash gone. They say someone must have been watching to know the location.
It is entirely possible people who become lost, disoriented or unwell can die in the cold of the High Country, their bodies never recovered.
But when the number of cases grow without any obvious reason in a roughly 60-kilometre radius, there will be talk, even if it is not based on any hard evidence.
Hill was a former bush logger who knew the area well. Their campsite had been burned out and his specially equipped camper utility was left singed and abandoned. Hill’s drone is still missing.
They had full and happy lives at their respective homes and showed no indication of wanting to disappear.
Checks have shown they have not accessed their phones, credit cards or bank accounts. Police believe they are dead but despite repeated searches have found no evidence as to what actually happened.
If they haven’t engineered their own disappearance and were the victims of an accident, then how did their campsite – set up for comfort with a tent, outdoor shower, fold-up chairs and a table – just happen to catch fire?
What has not been revealed is that Hill was in the area a week before, flying his drone near the Button-Man’s campsite.
In October last year Niels Becker, 39, an experienced bushwalker, went missing on a five-day hike. He left the Upper Jamieson Hut on October 24 and two days later sent a message to his family from Vallejo Gantner Hut that he was heading to his car at Mount Stirling.
The last confirmed sighting was by the Button-Man, who told police he saw the well-equipped hiker in his area. The track took him past the Button-Man’s camp.
This is hardly surprising as his camp is at a spot known as the Cross-Roads where bushwalkers in the know head because it is one of the few places with good radio reception.
No one really knows why Conrad Whitlock, 72, drove into the High Country in July last year nor why he left his white BMW in darkness on the side of Mount Buller Road along with his jacket, mobile phone and keys.
If he had a medical episode (he had been suffering from unexplained headaches) surely he would have finished only metres from the road, or if it was a bizarre suicide then a note for his family would seem likely. One theory is he left his warm car for a toilet stop and decided he didn’t need a jacket for such a quick break.
Of all the mysteries, former Barwon Prison governor David Prideaux, 50, is the greatest. I met Dave a couple of times and found him to be smart, energetic and committed. What I didn’t know was that he was a passionate bush hunter.
On June 5, 2011, he went hunting with his brother-in-law from Tomahawk Hut, Mount Stirling, and has not been seen since. There were many theories, including that he was killed over the murder of drug dealer Carl Williams, who had been ambushed and murdered inside Barwon more than a year earlier. It is nonsense. Urban hitmen wouldn’t have a chance of creeping up on an experienced hunter. And most wear slip-on shoes with no socks – hardly appropriate gear for the high country.
There is another case, not quite within the defined area, but close enough to be of interest.
Warren Meyer, 57, disappeared from Dom Dom Saddle in March 2008. For Meyer, an experienced bushwalker, the four-hour hike was easy. The weather was fine, he was equipped with a phone, GPS and food and water – yet he was never heard from again.
The fact that in these cases phones were not used, GPS not activated, and not even the slightest trail left has led to whispered speculation – speculation that is a long way from evidence.
These mysteries have led to talk in the Mansfield area, with many hunters, campers and locals sharing their stories about chance encounters with the Button-Man.
Such as the experienced shooter who woke around 11pm for a night hunt to find Button-Man camped next to him.
Some think he sees it as harmless sport to “hunt the hunters”, proving he can approach the best without them knowing.
Police from the Missing Persons Squad have heard these stories too, which is why Search and Rescue Police hiked into a remote area near King Billy Track to buttonhole the Button-Man at his base, perched on a high point in the Alpine National Park.
Eventually the man who prefers his own company was up for a chat.
Police went there not to accuse him of anything (other than camping illegally) but to seek his help because he knows the area as well as anyone and sometimes sits off hikers, silently watching them pass.
After all, you would always ask the lighthouse keeper what he saw after a shipwreck. Last week police searched the area where Russell Hill and Carol Clay were last seen in a final effort before the snow. They found nothing. The trail may be cold but soon it will be frozen.
Meanwhile there are sporadic sightings of the Button-Man, wandering into Mansfield to buy supplies or in the bush. He is a unique character who is extremely resourceful, slightly possessive of the area he sees as his patch and usually only seen when he wants to be seen. But that will not stop others from wondering.
What makes him tick?
Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
John Silvester is a Walkley-award winning crime writer and columnist. A co-author of the best-selling books that formed the basis of the hit Australian TV series Underbelly, Silvester is also a regular guest on 3AW with his “Sly of the Underworld” segment.
Late actor Heath Ledger was so adamant that 2005’s Brokeback Mountain be taken seriously, he refused to entertain those who made jest of the homosexual relationship central to the story, according to co-star Jake Gyllenhaal.
Gyllenhaal recently revealed that the Oscar-winner refused to present at the 2006 Academy Awards due to a joke written into the ceremony’s opening monologue.
“I mean, I remember they wanted to do an opening for the Academy Awards that year that was sort of joking about it,” Gyllenhaal, 39, told fashion magazine, Another Man.
“And Heath refused. I was sort of at the time, ‘Oh, okay … whatever.’ I’m always like, ‘It’s all in good fun.’ And Heath said, ‘It’s not a joke to me — I don’t want to make any jokes about it.’”
Gyllenhaal continued, “That’s the thing I loved about Heath. He would never joke. Someone wanted to make a joke about the story or whatever, he was like, ‘No. This is about love. Like, that’s it, man. Like, no.’”
Brokeback Mountain, which is available to stream on Foxtel Now, received eight Academy Award nominations, including acting nominations for both Gyllenhaal and Ledger. Both went home empty-handed, but Ledger won posthumously in 2009 for his role as the Joker in The Dark Knight.
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Ledger passed away in January 2008 after accidentally overdosing on a cocktail of oxycodone, diazepam, hydrocodone and doxylamine. He was 28.
This article originally appeared in the NY Post and was reproduced with permission.