Vantage Elite Track team rider Aaron Gate produced a stunning sprint finish on a frantic final stage to claim victory by the narrowest of margins in the 64th SBS Bank Tour of Southland.
It is the second time that the track star has won the Tour of Southland, after his initial victory in 2016.
The Black Spoke Pro Cycling team rider had to dig deep after the race was turned on its head in the final two stages today – a 13km individual time trial and 77km final dash from Winton to Invercargill.
Two-time champion Michael Vink (Business South) took over the yellow jersey lead after the individual time trial by just one second from time trial winner Gate, the only rider to go under the 16-minute mark on a cool and windy day in Winton.
Overnight leader Corbin Strong (Powernet) saw his hopes to become the first local Southlander to win in over 25 years evaporate in the time trial when he dropped 24 seconds back.
While there were several attempts to break on the super-fast dash back to Invercargill, the Black Spoke team set a hot pace, helping Gate to secure the time bonus for the intermediate sprint to draw level with Vink for overall honours.
It came down to the sprint finish around the famed Queens Park circuit, with Gate claiming the stage win and the bonus seconds, to secure the overall Tour of Southland honours ahead of Vink.
Gate’s Vantage Elite Track teammate Campbell Stewart sprinted home in second place in the final stage ahead of double junior track world champion Laurence Pithie.
Strong picked up the honours for best under-23 rider; Black Spoke Pro Cycling the leading team; James Fouche (Creation Signs-MitoQ) the sprint classification and Paul Wright (Creation Signs – MitoQ) the KOM honours.
Gate’s Black Spoke teammate James Oram was third overall ahead of Strong.
Cycling New Zealand endurance coach Craig Palmer will be no doubt delighted with the form of his track riders with the Vantage squad picking up wins in in the prologue and six of the seven stages
Attention now turns to the Vantage Criterium National Championships in Christchurch on Sunday 15 November.