James Oram has climbed his way into the yellow jersey in the SBS Bank Tour of Southland, with a stage victory and a powerful climb up the infamous Bluff Hill.
Buoyed by words of wisdom from his Kiwi Velo-Armstrong Prestige team mate, and last year’s Tour winner Mike Northey – who also won the Bluff Hill stage last year – Oram didn’t take today’s stage lead until late in the piece.
“Coming into the base (of Bluff Hill) a few riders tried to get away and we were picking up riders from the breakaway,” he said.
“Sam Lindsay went after about 1km, but there’s still about 4minutes of climbing to go so I just let him stay there. Mike told me last year the same thing happened to him and he just kicked on the final steep part and pulled the gap back, so I just trusted in his words, hit the final steep part and came away with the win.”
Oram finished the stage – a 140km course from Invercargill through Central Southland and back to finish with a brutal 2km climb up Bluff Hill – 5 seconds ahead of Liam Aitcheson (H&Js Outdoor World Avanti Plus) and Joe Cooper (Huon Salmon Genesys Wealth Advisors) to go 11 seconds up on Aitcheson and Cooper in the general classification.
Oram is part of a strong Kiwi Velo-Armstrong Prestige team which includes Northey, Daniel Barry, Fraser Northey, Fraser Gough and Matt Cronshaw.
Northey and Gough were part of a breakaway group of riders on today’s stage that created a 3 minute lead, which the group held until the bottom of Bluff Hill. Tom Scully (Ascot Park Hotel Kia Southland) also featured prominently in the group, picking up plenty of the sprint points on offer to earn the Harcourts Sprint Ace jersey on his home Tour.
“I knew if I could get into the break today – and that was a goal of the team – I could chase the (sprint) points, it was a case of going out there and taking one after the other. There wasn’t too much fight for it, so I was pretty happy to be out there doing it,” Scully said.
Oram, now wearing yellow, will hand over the Henderson Construction Ltd U23 jersey to Aitcheson, while Grayson Napier (Creation Signs L&M Group Racing) will retain the Jesco Hydraulics King of the Mountain jersey. Australian-based team Huon Salmon Genesys Wealth Advisors is leading the Wensley’s Cycles team classification.
Alex McGregor (Radio Sport) picked up The Southland Times most combative award, for his aggressive riding in the break.
Oram credited his Kiwi Velo-Armstrong Prestige team mates with a huge effort today and said the team was gelling well early in the Tour. With a solid climbing effort today, Thursday’s Stage 4, which finishes with an 8km climb up Coronet Peak is looming as a key day, but Oram admitted it would be somewhat of a different test.
“Today was a good way to test the form, but Coronet’s a completely different ball game - it’s a 30 or 40 minute climb compared to a 10 minute all out power climb, but hopefully we’ll still be in yellow there and have a bit more fun.”
Before the Tour makes its way to Coronet, riders will face tomorrow’s stage – a 148kmstage from Riverton to Te Anau.
Riders make their way from Riverton, around the coast through Tuatapere, over the Blackmount hill and into Te Anau. What was previously a two-stage day has been cut back to one 148km stage.