Cycling New Zealand elite track riders continue to shine with 2019 Omnium World Champion Campbell Stewart sprinting clear to claim stage 5 on the penultimate day of the 64th SBS Bank Tour of Southland.
Stewart (Base Solutions Racing) was too strong in the final sprint of today’s longest day of 170km to Lumsden.
Stewart outlasted the fast-finishing Ethan Batt and his fellow Black Spoke Pro Cycling teammate Joshua Kench to claim his first stage win of the tour, while his Vantage Elite Track teammate Corbin Strong, finished in the peloton to retain a 10 second advantage going into the final two stages on Saturday.
A nine-strong group including Stewart, two-time national champion Paul Odlin (Powernet), national under-19 champion Jack Drage (Central Benchmakers - Willbike), stage four winner Reuben Thompson (Vet4Farm) and Batt enjoyed the still conditions to push to a near four minute advantage, working well together.
Kench attacked to go clear by 19 seconds until Stewart hunted him down with 1km to go and was too strong in the final dash to the line, as Batt roared home for second.
While Stewart pushed off the front in the sprint into Lumsden, all of the major general classification contenders were safely locked in the peloton that closed to 2min`18s behind at the finish.
Tomorrow’s final day has two stages, with a 13km individual time trial at Winton in the morning and final 77km stage back into Invercargill in the afternoon to decide the honours.
Canterbury’s Michael Vink, who finished in the peloton with Strong today, is a former elite and two-time under-23 national time trial champion, and will need to call on all of those skills to close the gap if he is to realise a third straight Southland title.
“It was a hard first couple of hours to start the race and it was really aggressive racing. We were looking forward to that and then once the break went it calmed down a lot and we had the answers for all the questions that were answered today,” Strong said.
“Tomorrow it’s going to be a hell of a showdown and anyone in the top five can win this race and fingers crossed that’s me.”
There was no change in the jersey classifications with James Fouche and Paul Wright (both Creation Signs-MITOQ), holding the Sprint Ace and King of the Mountain categories respectively.
Odlin remains the leading over 35 rider, while Strong is also the highest ranked under 23 rider and Black Spoke Pro Cycling Academy leads the teams classification.
There is daily coverage on https://www.tourofsouthland.com/ with television highlights programme each evening on TV1 repeated the following morning on Duke.
Event details: www.tourofsouthland.com