Node 4-Subaru’s Mike Northey has maintained his lead in the PowerNet Tour of Southland, after a day when the two race stages both came down to sprint finishes.
The tight finishes in the morning’s 48km stage from Riverton to Tuatapere and the afternoon’s stage from Tuatapere to Te Anau saw little movement in the Tour’s general classification standings, with Northey’s lead set at eight seconds.
After Bissell Pro Cycling’s Paddy Bevin won the sprint finish into Tuatapere this morning, winning a stage hampered by blustery crosswinds for much of the coastal route, the afternoon’s stage was expected to be one where several teams would make their moves.
Eight riders broke away early after the departure from Tuatapere, including Alexandra’s James Williamson (Pure Black Racing), Share the Road’s Sam Lindsay and Mark Langlands, Dillon Bennett (H&Js Outdoor World-Avanti Plus), Alex McGregor (Stewart Imrie Financial Services) and Tom Hubbard (Henderson Construction). By the time they reached the top of the Blackmount Hill – about half way into the 100km stage – just Williamson, Lindsay and Hubbard remained in the lead break.
That break got up to 3minutes ahead at one point before the riders reached Manapouri and, with about 20km to go, Williamson made a solo break, gaining up to a 20second lead.
Williamson was caught with just 2km to go, resulting in another sprint finish into Te Anau with Clinton Avery (Ascot Park Hotel-Kia Southland-NZ Bike Magazine) taking line honours ahead of Sam Witmitz (Share the Road), Daniel Barry (Node 4-Subaru), and Southland’s Tom Scully (PowerNet).
After finishing second in the morning’s stage Avery, who comes into the Tour with good form after recently racing the Tour of Beijing, said he had been motivated to go one better that afternoon.
“Double stages are always painful, but my team looked after me really well,” he said.
“Bissell tried to set it up for the finish, but Alex (Meenhorst) just sat in the wind and kept me sheltered. Coming into Te Anau there was a bit of argy bargy, so I’m happy there was no crashes coming into the finish.”
Northey was part of both leading groups that finished Stage Three into Tuatapere and Stage Four into Te Anau, which means he takes his eight second lead into tomorrow’s racing.
He admits leading the Tour is unfamiliar territory, but he is buoyed by a team that is making all the right moves.
“The guys rode really well today, we couldn’t have done much more,” he said.
“I’ll hold onto the yellow jersey as long as I can, but we’re taking it day by day. I haven’t been in this position very often so it’s all a bit of a learning curve for me. Tomorrow is going to be a big day up the Crown Range, and it’s a stage for them (the Node 4-Subaru team), that’s their style, so they will ride strong.”
Northey’s Node 4-Subaru team has also retained its hold on the Wensley’s Cycles team classification. Joe Chapman (Creation Signs-L&M Group Racing) keeps the Jesco Hydraulics King of the Mountain jersey, Sam Witmitz (Share the Road) retains the Harcourts Sprint Ace jersey and Taylor Gunman (Pure Black Racing) also maintains his hold on The Co-operative Bank U23 jersey.
Tomorrow’s stage is 179km, departing from Te Anau and finishing with the notorious climb up the Crown Range near Arrowtown. It is a stage that has made and broken many riders during the Tour and expectations are that tomorrow will be no different.