Michael Torckler will get another shot at winning the SBS Bank Tour of Southland after dominating the gruelling Coronet Peak hill climb today.
Twelve months ago the New Plymouth rider won the same 138km stage from Mossburn to Coronet Peak, only to see his ambitions smashed to pieces the next day on the way to the iconic Bluff Hill finish.
It would be tempting to use a word like redemption for Torckler, but remember this is a rider who has already survived a potentially life-ending crash in the United States five years ago.
Torckler will now look to his Blindz Direct team mates to give him the opportunity to defend a 44sec buffer.
“Obviously the tour is not over, and we saw that last year with the lead change pretty much every day,” Torckler said as he savoured victory from the lofty surrounds of the Coronet Peak carpark.
“You take a lot from that. Tomorrow it’s going to be really important, just watching some key guys, not getting caught out anywhere and making sure my teammates just wrap around me, that’s going to be the key.”
Starting the stage as a strong favourite for line honours, Torckler was full of praise for the work his team did to get him through the stage.
“I’ve felt a bit of pressure for a few days now, but I certainly had a good group of guys around me to ease that,” he said.
“They delivered me right at the front. Jason Thomason went as hard as he could right into the bottom and I was exactly where I needed to be.
“I wouldn’t say I was feeling super amazing and it was hard to tell how the guys around me were feeling so it was hard to know how much effort to put in. It certainly split up pretty quickly and I had a few digs and could see the boys were on the ropes. With 5km to go I put in a decent attack and soloed from there.”
With fine conditions and light winds for a third day, aggressive riding eventually saw a selection of six riders escape after the Jollies Pass climb, with Joshua Scott (Creation Signs L&M Mining Group Ricoh), Ethan Batt (Mike Greer Homes), ITM riders Nicholas Costello and Brendan Cole, Alex Ray (Wheelworks Handcrafted Wheels) and Kris Rush (Adair Craik Accountants) getting out to a 7min lead at one point.
The real action started at the bottom of Coronet, however, with Torckler, Brad Evans (PowerNet), Michael Vink (Mike Greer Homes) and Canadian James Piccoli (Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel) all looking to press their tour claims.
Evans cracked early and finished 15th, while Piccoli had to settle for second place on the stage and overall standings, 44sec down, with Vink third on the stage and 51sec down on Torckler overall.
Callum Gordon (Business South) took out the Jollies Pass climb to retain the King of the Mountain jersey, with Alexandra’s James Williamson (Creation Signs L&M Mining Group Ricoh) holding a six point lead over Gordon in the Sprint Ace standings.
Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel took over the teams classification, while Alex West (Team Skoda Racing) is the leading under 23 rider, in seventh place overall. Andy Hagan (Wheelworks Handcrafted Wheels) is the leading over 35 rider, in 18th place overall.
Alex Ray, who punctured before Frankton to lose touch with the break, was awarded the Most Combative award, while Matt Zenovich (Mike Greer Homes) was presented with the John Vercoe Trophy as the first Southlander up Coronet Peak.
Tomorrow’s stage 4 takes the riders 148.5km from Invercargill to Bluff Hill. The 2017 SBS Bank Tour of Southland finishes in Invercargill on November 4.
Results from the 3rd stage of the SBS Tour of Southland.
1. Michael Torckler (BZD) 3h44m04s; 2. James Piccoli (KAP) at 32s; 3. Michael Vink (MGH) at 37s; 4. Raphael Freienstein (AVE) at 01m36s; 5. Lionel Mawditt (TSR) at 01m50s; 6. Mike Cuming (AVE) at 02m04s; 7. Taylor Gunman (KAP) at 02m15s; 8. Alex West (TSR) at 02m20s; 9. Boris Clark (CST) at 02m30s; 10. Ryan Christensen (KAP) at 02m39s; 11. Jake Marryatt (CST) at 02m47s; 12. Matt Ross (PNL) at 02m47s; 13. Sam Mobberley (ITM) at 02m47s; 14. John Wansink (ACA) at 03m16s; 15. Brad Evans (PNL) at 03m25s; 16. Kane Richards (ITM) at 03m38s; 17. James Fouche (CLM) at 03m50s; 18. Ben Andrews (AVE) at 04m43s; 19. Tim Rush (MGH) at 04m51s; 20. Andy Hagan (WWS) at 04m51s; 21. Richard Randall (GLS) at 04m51s; 22. Campbell Pithie (ITM) at 05m08s; 23. Ben Robertson (TPS) at 05m20s; 24. Matthew Higgins (WWS) at 05m20s; 25. Rylan Dowdell (BZD) at 05m23s;
1. Michael Torckler (BZD) 11h39m35s; 2. James Piccoli (KAP) at 44s; 3. Michael Vink (MGH) at 51s; 4. Raphael Freienstein (AVE) at 01m57s; 5. Mike Cuming (AVE) at 02m24s; 6. Taylor Gunman (KAP) at 02m27s; 7. Alex West (TSR) at 02m42s; 8. Ryan Christensen (KAP) at 03m01s; 9. Sam Mobberley (ITM) at 03m12s; 10. Jake Marryatt (CST) at 03m22s; 11. Brad Evans (PNL) at 03m37s; 12. Kane Richards (ITM) at 03m57s; 13. James Fouche (CLM) at 04m17s; 14. Boris Clark (CST) at 04m58s; 15. Matt Ross (PNL) at 05m04s; 16. Tim Rush (MGH) at 05m09s; 17. Ben Andrews (AVE) at 05m10s; 18. Andy Hagan (WWS) at 05m17s; 19. Richard Randall (GLS) at 05m23s; 20. Paul Odlin (PNL) at 05m46s; 21. Roman Van Uden (PNL) at 06m01s; 22. Mathew Zenovich (MGH) at 06m22s; 23. Cyrus Monk (KAP) at 06m23s; 24. Carne Groube (CBW) at 06m43s; 25. Lionel Mawditt (TSR) at 06m47s;
1. Kia Motors - Ascot Park Hotel 35h05m17s; 2. Aardvark Excavators Ltd at 02m57s; 3. Powernet at 05m54s; 4. Mike Greer Homes at 05m54s; 5. ITM at 08m09s; 6. Team Skoda Racing at 09m01s; 7. Calder Stewart at 12m08s; 8. Blindz Direct at 13m17s; 9. Wheelworks Handcrafted Wheels at 17m23s; 10. Giant Lakeside at 18m02s;
1. James Williamson (CLM) 19; 2. Callum Gordon (BSS) 13; 3. Alexander Ray (WWS) 12; 4. Paul Wright (CBW) 10; 5. Logan Griffin (TGB) 9; 6. Andy Hagan (WWS) 8; 7. Paul Odlin (PNL) 8; 8. Eric Marcotte (KAP) 8; 9. Raphael Freienstein (AVE) 7; 10. Reon Nolan (ITM) 7;
King of Mountains
1. Callum Gordon (BSS) 23; 2. Ben Barry (CLM) 15; 3. Michael Torckler (BZD) 10; 4. Andy Hagan (WWS) 10; 5. Eric Marcotte (KAP) 10; 6. Brendan Cole (ITM) 8; 7. Joshua Scott (CLM) 8; 8. Alexander Ray (WWS) 7; 9. James Piccoli (KAP) 6; 10. Florian Barket (TSR) 6.
Riders face Invercargill to Bluff