The New Zealand National team gave locals plenty to cheer about in the Wairarapa today when Brad Evans won Stage 2 of the New Zealand Cycle Classic.
Evans, a previous winner of the five-stage tour and winner of the 2015 Tour of Tasmania and Tour of Southland, overcame a puncture to win the 136km stage in 3hrs04mins15secs a bike length ahead of runner-up Alex Frame, a New Zealander racing for English based team JLT Condor. Fellow kiwi Dion Smith, riding for England’s ONE Pro Cycling, finished third just a whisker ahead of Great Britain’s Christopher Lawless (JLT), whose strong finish also earned him the Ricoh U23 Rider’s jersey.
Frame’s podium finish pushed him up the general classification points ladder to earn him the overall yellow leader’s jersey while Great Britain’s Mike Cuming (State of Matter/MAAP) retained his Sprint Ace Jersey and Australian Sam Crome (Avanti IsoWhey Sports) retained his King of the Mountain Jersey. Michael Torckler (Team Trust House) earned the Most Aggressive Red Jersey.
Following the stage race which saw the riders travel south from Masterton to the wine village of Martinborough, including completing 8 laps through the town and reaching speeds of up to 65km/hr, Evans said his New Zealand team had a nervous start to the day following lots of little break-aways that dominated the first half of the race.
“We were trying to control that (break-aways) and make sure we were represented in each one. The main break away eventually went and I actually had a puncture at the time so I was off the back of the bunch fixing that … but when we got into Martinborough where the finishing circuits came around, which were quite short with lots of little turns, and it was quite windy as well, the bunch was spread out so it was quite hard. So I had to look after myself through there and keep myself as fresh as possible for the sprint,” he said.
“Coming into the sprint I followed the yellow jersey (of JLT) and I managed to come around him in the final moments of the sprint.”
“It’s always nice to get a win in this international race with UCI points,” said Evans, who is from Dunedin.
Not letting the stage win go to his head Evans, was quick to look ahead to the rest of the tour and was predicting big things from his teammates Michael Vink, Hamish Schreurs and Nick Kergozou.
“We’ve a couple of options for the overall. Michael Vink is probably our strongest hillclimber which will be one to watch for the Admiral’s stage (stage 4) and I shouldn’t be took far behind him, so we’ll see how it pans out. We lost one guy before the start of the tour with an injury (Peter Bulling) so there’s only four of us, so we have to pick and choose what we do.”
However New Zealand will have strong competition from JLT Condor who are leading the GC and have made their intentions clear on claiming more podium finishes. Frame gained extra kudos from the locals afterwards when he handed an elderly lady sitting in a nearby café his bouquet of winner’s flowers.
Stage 3 of the New Zealand Cycle Classic continues tomorrow and features a 130km route where riders complete 10 laps of a rural, undulating circuit between Masterton and Carterton. Riders will leave at 10am from Mitre 10 Mega Masterton in Ngaumutawa Road and are expected to finish along Haringa Road at an estimated time of 1.25pm.