Bolton Equity Black Spoke’s Mark Stewart won the 2022 New Zealand Cycle Classic title following a thrilling fifth and final stage held in central Wellington today.
The Scottish road and track cyclist, who has been living in New Zealand since the first lockdown, went into today’s final stage with a 38 second advantage on general classification. After crossing the finish line in sixth position today – behind team mate Regan Gough who won the stage in spectacular fashion – Stewart had earned enough points to be crowned the overall Tour winner.
Upon being presented the yellow jersey in front of a large and vocal crowd in Midland Park in the centre of Lambton Quay, Stewart thanked his team mates and all the thousands of spectators who came out to watch the circuit race.
“You can’t underestimate how important an event like this is for New Zealand to have such a high calibre of riders mix with, hopefully, New Zealand’s next generation of talent, and then to top that and to put it in the capital city of the country, is phenomenal,” said Stewart. “So to come here and to be the best rider in that field and to wear the yellow jersey, is really quite special.”
While it would take a huge upset for Stewart not to retain the yellow jersey after consistent racing over the last four stages, including an incredible win in yesterday’s gruelling Queen Stage, it came down to the wire for the overall sprint classification jersey.
Today’s 60 minute, plus three lap circuit race, saw plenty of action from the second lap when home town rider George Jackson (MitoQ), Shane Archbold (NZL) and Glenn Hayden (Coupland’s) took the lead and held it for several laps – at one point having a 30 second lead on the peloton. Jackson won all three sprints catapulting him up the points ladder to be in serious contention for the Sprint Ace jersey.
The race was lit up when George Bennett, Gough and Stewart put their heads down and lifted their pace, giving the crowds plenty to cheer about. But it was Gough who in the final stages of the stage went out in front and had enough power in his legs to take the stage win in 1hr 08min 15 secs just ahead of Keegan Hornblow (Coupland’s) and Laurence Pithie (NZL).
While Jackson narrowly missed out on the sprint ace jersey to St George Continental’s Nick Kergozou, he said he loved racing in front of his hometown crowd and was surprised to get in the early breakaway.
“It was pretty cool to see so many people I know on the streets, it was pretty special,” said Jackson. “I didn’t expect that, but I saw Archbold and Hayden go, and I knew those guys are very strong so I just held on and I got a pretty good gap and took lots of green jersey points I was just hunting those … it was a pretty good day.”
Even though Bennett didn’t finish on the podium today, his New Zealand National team was presented the Team’s Classification jersey while teammate Laurence Pithie took out the U23/Young Rider jersey.
Earlier in the day the streets along Lambton Quay were closed off for a series of fun rides designed for recreational riders to participate in. The children’s race saw around 14 youngster zoom around the course before club riders took the chance to do a 30minute circuit race.
The 2022 NZ Cycle Classic is able to take place thanks to the generous support from Trust House, Mobile Communications Service, Wizwireless, Fagan Motors, Mitre 10 Mega Masterton and Lion Foundation plus all three Wairarapa District Councils.
Visit www.cycletournz.com for more details
Photo Credit - Dave Lintott