Auckland cyclist Aaron Gate has claimed the Under-23 leader’s jersey after stage three of the Ras Tour of Ireland today.
Gate is part of the BikeNZ endurance track squad who are competing on the roads in Europe in preparation for next year’s campaign towards the London Olympics.
The Delhi Commonwealth Games representative finished in a lead group of eight riders in today’s 174km stage from Kilrush to Castle Island in the south west of Ireland.
Gate is leading New Zealander on general classification in sixth place, 1m27s behind leader Gediminas Bagdonas from the An Post Sean Kelly team, but leads teammate Shane Archbold in the Under-23 category.
The young New Zealander was in the crucial break today which at one stage went seven minutes clear before the peloton reduced the margin.
“I managed to find a lucky move up the inside of the bunch and for some reason we didn’t get chased down,” Gate said. “It split up on the last climb with 10kms to go and I held on with some cramp making it a bit difficult.”
The conditions were not as demanding as yesterday’s brutal winds and rough roads.
“It was another tough day at the office, although the roads were smoother and the winds now quite as strong as yesterday when they got up to 95kph,” Gate said. “At one stage yesterday I was riding downhill and looked at my speedo and it registered 17kph into a block head wind.
“We had a tough climb near the end today which is never a lot of fun after 165kms in the saddle.”
Archbold, who missed the break today, finished in the main peloton along with Myron Simpson 2m32s behind the winner.
“It would be great for one of us to keep the white jersey (U23 overall). Novie (Shane Archbold) is not too far down for the points jersey and a stage win is definitely high up on the list for the team. We believe we have the ability to get a stage win here.”
Tomorrow’s fourth stage is 142kms to the coastal town of Castletownbere and includes a category one climb over Healy Pass near the conclusion along with four other categorised climbs.
The eight-day race includes 185 riders from 12 international teams along with a host of British and Irish teams battling over 1247 kilometres with 28 categorised climbs.
Meanwhile squad rider Jason Christie has won a kermesse in impressive fashion in Belgium.
The Ashburton cyclist, who missed out on the final team for the Ras, pressed his claims after a brilliant solo ride in the 100km kermesse in Maasmechelen, near Liege.
The BikeNZ under-23 rider got himself into a small break mid-race and then showed his power and potential as he rode off the front of the lead group to win by an impressive two minutes.
Ras Tour of Ireland, Stage 3, 175km Kilrush to CastleIsland: Nikolay Mihaylov (BUL, Aix en Provence) 4:13:50, 1; Oleksandr Sheydyk (Ukraine Lampre) same time, 2; Peter Williams (GBR) at 15s, 3. Also New Zealanders: Aaron Gate at 15s, 8; Myron Simpson at 2:32, 40; Shane Archbold same time, 45; Cameron Karwowski at 3:51, 84; Marc Ryan at 5:55, 101.
General classification: Gediminas Bagdonas (An Post Sean Kelly) 12:56.16, 1; Sheydyk Olek (Ukraine Lampre) at 1:16, 2; Nikolay Mihaylov (Bulgaria) same time, 3; Peter Williams (GBR) at 1:27, 4; Simon Richardson (GBR) at 1:31, 5; Aaron Gate (NZL) same time, 6; Floris Goesinnen (NED) same time, 7; Shane Archbold (NZL) at 2:17, 8.
Under 23: Gate 12:57.47, 1; Archbold at 46s, 2; B Rodriguez (ESP) at 2.17, 3; S Downey (IRE) same time, 4; Myron Simpson (NZL) same time, 5.
International teams: Britain Motorsport 38:55:28, 1; An Post Sean Kelly at 48s, 2; New Zealand at 56s, 3.