WORLD points race champion Corbin Strong secured a home victory on stage two of the SBS Bank Tour of Southland with Aaron Gate retaining the yellow jersey.
PowerNet rider Strong, riding in his third Southland tour, punched his way off the front of a bunch sprint to win the stage into picturesque Te Anau under a stunning blue sky.
“I’ve followed this tour for as long as I can remember, being a young Southlander growing up and sitting outside of school watching the tour go by Otatara primary school and then sitting in the vans before I was old enough to do it,” Strong said.
“It’s been a long time coming. I’ve had a lot of near misses in this tour already in the last two years, so to pull it off was a great feeling and one I’ll remember for a long time.”
The major break of the day featured PowerNet’s experienced rider Paul Odlin, Alexander White (Black Spoke), Dylan Kennett (Transport Engineering-Talleys) and Paul Wright (Creation Signs-MITOQ), who was prominent in the first two stages.
Wright took out the Blackmount hillclimb, but the break was shut down between Manapouri and Te Anau, with Strong edging his New Zealand endurance track team-mates Campbell Stewart (Base Solutions Racing) and Tom Sexton (Business South) to the line.
“We went in with a good plan for today, all the PowerNet boys were committed and I owe them a lot, it was an awesome team effort and we are riding awesome as a team together and hopefully there’s a few more wins to come this week,” Strong said.
“There wasn’t much wind but it was still a hard day. There were a lot of attacks going in and it was quite aggressive racing, which was nice. It hasn’t been as hard a start to the tour this year, but that just means that when it does get hard it’s going to be that much more exciting.”
Gate (Black Spoke) crossed the finish line in the main bunch to retain the lead for a second day, surviving a scary moment when he was edged towards the barriers and dropped his chain over a speed bump near the line.
He led team-mate and fellow former Southland winner James Oram by 6sec, with Tom Sexton (Business South) third at 9sec and Strong fourth at 15sec.
It was former winner Aaron Gate and his strong Black Spoke team, who laid down an early challenge on the opening stage of the tour.
Gate executed the winning move late in the 151km stage from Invercargill to Gore, beating the peloton home in a bunch sprint to take stage honours and the yellow jersey.
Starting the day in chilly conditions, a moderate breeze made for a less demanding start.
“It wasn’t as exciting to start with as we were helping because there wasn’t much wind,” Gate said.
“Our Plan B was to light it up on the climb into the back of Gore and it just worked out perfectly with James Oram doing a perfect little lead out. The two of us managed to sneak away and then Ben Oliver from his team (Central Benchmakers-Willbike) joined us and the three of us managed to hold off the peloton for the win, so that was awesome.”
Oliver was second on the first stage, with Oram third.