Taylor Gunman has conquered one of the most anticipated stages of this year’s SBS Bank Tour of Southland, powering up the 8km Coronet Peak climb for a stage victory.
Sam Lindsay (Barry Stewart Builders) finished second, overtaken in the final500mof the 187km stage from Te Anau to Queenstown. James Oram (Kiwi Velo-Armstrong Prestige) was third across the line, meaning he will stay in the Tour’s yellow jersey for the third consecutive day; now boasting a 33 second lead in the general classification.
Gunman, in his debut Tour for Huon Salmon Genesys Wealth Advisors, said the stage victory came down to a cool head and some good speed.
“We had our hopes pinned on Joe (Cooper) today, so getting into the base of Coronet Peak when Kiwi Velo had control, I had the legs and put a turn of pace in, just to isolate Oram as much as we could to set up Joe. Unfortunately he hit a bit of a rough patch so he gave me the all clear,” he said.
“From there I just had to keep within myself. Before I knew it I built up enough momentum just to keep going. I kept a cool head and it paid off all the way, so I’m very happy with that.”
“Southland is so prestigious to any Kiwi so to get a win means a lot. I’ve been talking about wanting to get a win and to kick that off with Genesys on debut, I couldn’t be happier, it’s right up there.”
In previous Tours today’s stage has finished with a steep 4km climb up the Crown Range, however this year organisers opted to move to the 8.4km Coronet Peak finish – a move Gunman and his team anticipated with a recon of the hill before the Tour started.
Today’s stage played out in hot, sunny conditions, with a group of eight riders making an initial break after just 32km. That lead grew to more than 7minutes at one point, with Tom Scully (Ascot Park Hotel Kia Southland) cleaning up almost all of the sprint points on offer to retain the Harcourts Sprint Ace jersey, and Grayson Napier (Creation Signs L&M Group Racing) taking three maximum-point climbs to keep the Jesco Hydraulics King of the Mountain jersey.
By the base of Coronet Peak – 179km into the stage – the break had been caught and, while Gunman had the legs to take the stage victory, Oram did enough to extend his overall lead and will take added confidence heading into the last two days of theSBS Bank-sponsoredTour.
Oram now leads the Tour by 33 seconds, ahead of Linsday and Gunman, although the trio along with Lachlan Norris (Ascot Park Hotel Kia Southland) are all within a minute. Michael Torkler and Jeremy Vennell (both Calder Stewart) are both less than two minutes back from Oram.
Oram, a strong time trialist, is cautious not to look too far ahead of tomorrow’s 167kmStage 5 from Invercargill to Lumsden, but will no doubt be eyeing Saturday morning’s time trial in Winton as key.
“Today’s result puts a bigger gap between (myself and) those people who were earlier threats. Hopefully that will make the job a bit easier for the boys and we’ll be able to enjoy riding the front a bit more,” he said.
“I am looking forward to that time trial… it’s definitely something I enjoy.”
Locally-based team H&Js Outdoor World Avanti Plus now leads the Wensley’s Cycles team classification, and with Oram leading the Henderson Construction U23 classification, second placed Tom Vessey (H&JsOudoor World Avanti Plus) will wear the pink jersey tomorrow.
Gordon McCauley (Barry Stewart Builders) was awarded The Southland Times most combative award for his efforts today.
Stage 5 (167km) starts at the SIT Zero Fees Velodrome in Invercargill, heading through Wallacetown, Otautau, Ohai, Nightcaps and Mossburn before finishing in Lumsden.