Canadian James Piccoli will seek to become just the fourth foreign winner in 61 years of the SBS Bank Tour of Southland on the final day of the 2017 edition.
The Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel rider holds a 35sec lead over Michael Torckler (Blindz Direct) and 38sec on Michael Vink (Mike Greer Homes) ahead of the final two stages, a 13km individual time trial in Winton followed by a nervous 77km final stage from Winton to Invercargill.
He attacked his way into the yellow jersey with a daring move 20km from the stage finish today, wiping out the 32sec deficit he began the day with behind Torckler, who finished back in the main bunch.
“I was sort of in no-man’s land for a little bit and then I saw the tail of the caravan and that’s when I felt it was possible,” Piccoli said.
“I was lucky that I had a tailwind at the time, so it made the bridge across a little easier. We were super happy to pull it off. It was a little bit of a surprise, but we’ll take it.”
After racing in fine conditions and light winds for the first five days, the tour showed more of its traditional character on the way to Gore, but that didn’t stop the leaders from finishing more than half an hour early.
Brad Evans (PowerNet), the overall winner in 2015, claimed the stage from James Fouche (Creation Signs L&M Group Mining Ricoh) and Logan Griffin (Tank Guy/Bike Box Rentals).
“We had wind and rain all day, so it was full gas all day,” Piccoli said.
“The breakaway had originally gone up the road and had some pretty dangerous guys in it on GC. The team brought it back just close enough that I could get across. We kept the pressure on Blindz Direct all day and managed to pull it back just enough to get the yellow, so we are happy.”
Vink was the highest placed rider in a break which numbered nine at its peak and were out by close to 2min at Te Tipua to install Vink as the virtual leader.
Piccoli has led and won stage races before, and is looking forward to defending the yellow jersey.
While he is more used to racing time trials on specialist time trial bikes, he has done some training on a road bike.
“I wouldn’t call myself a time trial specialist, but I can hold my own,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to the last two stages of the race. Everyone is probably pretty tired at this stage of the race, that’s the way stage races go, but we’ll see what we have got left in the legs.”
Despite having many overseas visitors over the years, only three foreign riders have had their names inscribed on the Tour of Southland winners trophy - Australians Mal Powell in 1964 and Mitchell Lovelock-Fay in 2014, and United States rider John Lieswyn in 2002 and 2004.
Alexandra’s James Williamson (Creation Signs L&M Group Mining Ricoh) kept hold of the Sprint Ace jersey heading into the final day, with Piccoli surprising himself by also taking over the King of the Mountain classification.
Alex West (Team Skoda Racing) is the leading under 23 rider, while Paul Odlin (PowerNet) is the leading over 35 rider. Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel lead the team classification and Morgan Smith (Aardvark Excavators Ltd) was awarded Most Combative honours for the stage.
Results from the 6th stage of the SBS Tour of Southland.
Invercargill - Drummond - Hedgehope - Waimumu - Gore
1. Brad Evans (PNL) 3h15m13s; 2. James Fouche (CLM) ST; 3. Logan Griffin (TGB) ST; 4. Michael
Vink (MGH) ST; 5. James Piccoli (KAP) ST; 6. Nick Kergozou (PMK) at 45s; 7. Conner Sallee (GLS)
at 45s; 8. Carne Groube (CBW) at 45s; 9. Ollie Jones (PNL) at 45s; 10. Jake Marryatt (CST) at 45s;
11. Sam Mobberley (ITM) at 45s; 12. Ryan Christensen (KAP) at 45s; 13. Cyrus Monk (KAP) at 45s;
14. Alex Heaney (PNL) at 45s; 15. Matias Fitzwater (CST) at 45s; 16. Greg Taylor (TFC) at 45s; 17.
Campbell Pithie (ITM) at 45s; 18. Joseph Swale (CBW) at 45s; 19. Joshua Scott (CLM) at 45s; 20.
Ben Andrews (AVE) at 45s; 21. Boris Clark (CST) at 45s; 22. Richard Randall (GLS) at 45s; 23. Andy
Hagan (WWS) at 45s; 24. Taylor Gunman (KAP) at 45s; 25. Alex Quirk (ACA) at 45s;
1. James Piccoli (KAP) 18h21m02s; 2. Michael Torckler (BZD) at 35s; 3. Michael Vink (MGH) at 38s;
4. Raphael Freienstein (AVE) at 02m34s; 5. Alex West (TSR) at 03m34s; 6. Brad Evans (PNL) at
03m43s; 7. Taylor Gunman (KAP) at 03m55s; 8. Ryan Christensen (KAP) at 04m02s; 9. James
Fouche (CLM) at 04m16s; 10. Sam Mobberley (ITM) at 04m17s; 11. Jake Marryatt (CST) at 04m56s;
12. Boris Clark (CST) at 05m43s; 13. Kane Richards (ITM) at 05m45s; 14. Ben Andrews (AVE) at
06m44s; 15. Paul Odlin (PNL) at 07m00s; 16. Richard Randall (GLS) at 07m20s; 17. Mike Cuming
(AVE) at 07m20s; 18. Tim Rush (MGH) at 07m21s; 19. Andy Hagan (WWS) at 07m28s; 20. Carne
Groube (CBW) at 08m17s; 21. Campbell Pithie (ITM) at 09m00s; 22. Nick Kergozou (PMK) at
09m10s; 23. Cyrus Monk (KAP) at 10m27s; 24. Alex Quirk (ACA) at 10m32s; 25. Roman Van Uden
(PNL) at 10m48s;
1. Kia Motors - Ascot Park Hotel 55h11m33s; 2. Aardvark Excavators Ltd at 04m50s; 3. Powernet at
07m41s; 4. ITM at 10m41s; 5. Mike Greer Homes at 13m00s; 6. Team Skoda Racing at 13m01s; 7.
Calder Stewart at 16m10s; 8. Wheelworks Handcrafted Wheels at 25m57s; 9. Blindz Direct at
27m03s; 10. Giant Lakeside at 27m11s;
1. James Williamson (CLM) 31; 2. Alexander Ray (WWS) 30; 3. Morgan Smith (AVE) 23; 4. Paul
Wright (CBW) 19; 5. Michael Vink (MGH) 15; 6. James Fouche (CLM) 15; 7. Mike Cuming (AVE) 12;
8. Mathew Zenovich (MGH) 12; 9. Matt Ross (PNL) 12; 10. Josh Kuysten (BZD) 11;
King of Mountains
1. James Piccoli (KAP) 28; 2. Ben Barry (CLM) 26; 3. Logan Griffin (TGB) 25; 4. Michael Torckler
(BZD) 16; 5. Michael Vink (MGH) 13; 6. Andy Hagan (WWS) 10; 7. Eric Marcotte (KAP) 10; 8.
Brendan Cole (ITM) 8; 9. Joshua Scott (CLM) 8; 10. Florian Barket (TSR) 8;
The riders face two phases on the final day of racing with the 13km Individual Time Trial in and around Winton, followed by the final 77km leg from Winton to Invercargill.