Hometown hero Reuben Thompson climbed his way into the lead at the midway point of the SBS Bank Tour of Southland after a devastating attack on the gruelling climb up the Remarkables.
The 19-year-old Queenstown rider left the peloton in his wake on the 6km climb up the Remarkables ski field access road at the end of a 109km stage from Mossburn, taking a 23sec into tomorrow’s iconic fourth stage from Invercargill to Bluff.
The Vet4Farm rider, who returned from racing in Europe, only completed quarantine a day before this year’s tour. He headed home PowerNet’s Ollie Jones, with defending champion Michael Vink (Transport Engineering-Talleys) in third place.
“I know every part of this road like the back of my hand and it worked out well. I had a plan to attack over the last steep bit to pull out an advantage and that last kilometre was pretty tough,” Thompson said.
Thompson recently signed with leading UCI World Tour team Groupama-FDJ Continental, his Southland tour preparation consisting of sitting on a trainer in his Auckland hotel room while he sat out a two-week isolation period after returning from Europe.
Winning in his own backyard in front of friends and family, on a climb he holds the Strava record for, was a great result for the talented former triathlete.
“It’s super special. I’ve been training on this road ever since I can remember. This tour used to pass my primary school when I was a kid and they gave me a jersey one year and that’s kind of what got me into cycling. To come back and race this tour and win a stage is super special.”
Paul Wright (Creation Signs-MITOQ) again featured early and took out the Jollies hill climb to strengthen his hold on the King of the Mountain jersey.
Thompson leads second-placed James Oram (Black Spoke) by 23sec overall, with Jones at 24sec, and Corbin Strong (PowerNet) and Vink both at 25sec.
Thompson is also the race’s leading under 23 rider, while Strong claimed the John Vercoe memorial trophy as the fastest Southlander on the climb.
Black Spoke’s Aaron Gate, who started the stage in yellow, struggled in the latter part of the climb to drop to sixth place overall, 55sec in arrears.
The fourth stage features another hilltop finish, this time at the end of a 157km journey atop Bluff Hill.
The 64th edition of the SBS Bank Tour of Southland includes seven stages and finishes in Invercargill on Saturday, November 7.