The Kiwi Velo-Armstrong Prestige team took full control of the SBS Bank Tour of Southland today, with Matt Cronshaw claiming the stage victory and the yellow jersey still sitting firmly on the shoulders of James Oram with just one day of the 2013 Tour to come.
Cronshaw left his run to stage honours untilthe final 200m of the 158km Stage 5 from Invercargill to Lumsden, leading the bunch over the line in a sprint finish ahead of Joe Chapman (Creation Signs L&M Group Racing) and Cameron Karwowski (H&Js Outdoor World Avanti Plus).
Whilst somewhat surprised to take the stage win, the UK-based Cronshaw admitted it was an ideal day for the team as it looks to defend the yellow jersey over two final stages tomorrow.
“I didn’t expect any of it to be honest,” he said.
“We rode the front quite a lot of the day, myself and the two Frasers (Gough and Northey), just trying to keep Oram out of trouble. I was tying up a little bit with about 50 to go but I had a quick glance around and I was clear and I had time to post it, so I’m over the moon.”
“The main plan was to protect the GC lead. We tried to be quite selective over what group went and we played a perfect day. We got Dan Barry in the breakaway just policing things, which was vital with (Michael) Torkler in there.”
Torkler (Calder Stewart) did a huge amount of work earlier in the stage as part of a breakaway group which included Barry (Kiwi Velo-Armstrong Prestige), Josh Page (Barry Stewart Builders), and Luke McPherson (H&Js Outdoor World Avanti Plus). The group only ever held a maximum lead of 2minutes40seconds and split as the stage wore on, with the peloton catching it in the final few kilometres. Cronshawsprinted it out over the final 500mto claim the stage victory.
The result means Oram will take a 33 second lead in the general classification, ahead of Sam Lindsay (Barry Stewart Builders) and Taylor Gunman (Huon Salmon Genesys Wealth Advisers).
Lachlan Norris (Ascot Park Hotel Kia Southland), Torkler and Jeremy Vennell (Calder Stewart) are all within two minutes of the lead heading into tomorrow’s time trial in Winton, and the final 87km stage from Winton to Invercargill, setting up an exciting final day.
“We couldn’t have really gone any more perfect today,” Oram said.
“It’s not really a surprise to see Matt take a stage after all the work he’s done over the last few days – this is the icing on the cake.”
Tomorrow will be Oram’s fourth consecutive day in the SBS Bank-sponsored Tour’s yellow jersey and, as a known time trialist, he will be looking to hold it to the end.
“In that time trial I’ll just try to limit my losses and then in that final stage you never know what could happen, the GC could turn upside down. But you can definitely see that our team is one of the strongest out there, so we shouldn’t have too much to worry about,” he said.
“If I can gain time in tomorrow’s time trial then it will definitely show we’re very strong. We can make that final stage a good one and hopefully get another stage win.”
Tom Scully (Ascot Park Hotel Kia Southland) continues to lead the Harcourts Sprint Ace classification and Grayson Napier (Creation Signs L&M Group Racing) retains the Jesco Hydraulics King of the Mountain jersey. With Oram still leading the Henderson Construction U23 classification Tom Vessey (H&Js Outdoor World Avanti Plus)will wear the pink jersey tomorrow, and Huon Salmon Genesys Wealth Advisers leads the Wensley’s Cycles team classification.
Kieran Hambrook (Ascot Park Hotel Kia Southland) was awarded The Southland Times most combative award.
The winner of the 2013 SBS Bank Tour of Southland will be decided, after an individual time trial in Winton and an 87km stage from Winton to Invercargill.