As repeated in earlier stories, the weather was near perfection in the Manawatu region today, fine, sunny and mid twenties as the riders tackled the final stage of the tour.
It was to be a 112km of relatively flat terrain that greeted the cyclist this morning, two sprints for the green jersey points and a final straight run back into Palmerston North for what was early predicted as a sprinters stage.
With only seven riders either retired from the tour or missed time cuts, the field of 70 riders again seemed content to tempo the first few km’s of the stage. Team Budget Forklifts were first to throw their hand in with some early attacks but Huon Genesys had everything covered.
With the yellow jersey of Nathan Earle safely tucked into the peloton, all eyes turned to the first intermediate sprint for the green jersey points, Paul Odlin (Armstrong Motor Group), who only needed to secure one point to wrap up that classification, but word out was the Trek-Vittoria team were not looking to surrender the jersey without a fight. Young U23 rider Alex Frame, only five points behind Odlin mathematically could still challenge.
But superb team riding from Armstrongs remaining riders saw Odlin protected and Frame unable to place. The points went to Roman van Uden (Team Massey) from Kieran Hambrook (Team Tineli) and Odlins ever present team mate Jason Christie. With no points going towards Frame the classification was wrapped up for Odlin.
Hambrook not contend with the two points decided to counter attack the field and was soon joint by Drapac rider Mal Rudolph, Team GPM-Data’s Edward White and Meridian UK rider Matt Cronshaw.
Huon Genesys knew none of these riders could threaten the GC, so they were happy to let the riders establish the lead.
Kieran Hambrook for me has been the most aggressive rider throughout this tour, he has been present in most of the daily breakaways and has been unlucky not to have had any main success through the week.
Their lead quickly jumped to just under two minutes and again with the peloton content to let them go the four riders we well into sharing the work load for the break to succeed.
The second sprint of the day came at the 71km mark and the points were decided amongst the leaders, my tours ‘most aggressive’ pick, Kieran Hambrook took the three points ahead of Matt Cronshaw and Mal Rudolph.
A few attacks from the main peloton had lone riders trying to bridge the gap, but it seemed the NZCT NZ team were looking to set their sprinter Paddy Bevin up if the race was going to come back together, they were ever present at the front of the peloton making sure no more riders would escape.
At the 100km mark the time gaps were closing as the pressure was being applied and the peloton could sense the possibility of a bunch finish. Both NZCT and Budget Forklifts were driving on the front.
The fatigue was setting in up the break and it was Ed White first to crack and return to the peloton, then Cronshaw decided he had had enough, leaving Drapac strong man Rudolph and Tinelis’ Hambrook fighting the blistering speed which was now being set behind them.
As they hit the 1km mark Hambrook had been shelled and Rudolph looked as if his 10 second gap might just hold, but NZCT had different thoughts and unleashed Bevin with 200 to go, but former Junior World Champion Thomas Palmer (Drapac) kicked to line to pass Bevin and win the stage, Bevin would hold second ahead of another kiwi pro rider Clinton Avery for third.
The yellow jersey crossed safely across the line in the main bunch to take what Nathan Earle describes as “His biggest victory to date”.
A crash three km’s before the finish saw Capital Cycles rider Murray Arthur break his collar bone and limp across the line before heading to hospital in a display of courage.
Roadcycling.co.nz spoke to the winner of the day Thomas Palmer,“I really feel for Mal (Rudolph), he had an absolutely fantastic ride today, 100 metres less and he would have won the stage
”His ride really worked for me, as it was the other team that had to work to bring him back, our guys had the easy chase and that’s why we were so dominant in leading out the sprint, so I’m really happy with that win”.
Nathan Earle also told Roadcycling.co.nz “This is the biggest overall win of my cycling career”
“I was a little nervous earlier in the day, but again my team were faultless, they covered everything for me, we had to work hard early but once that break was established we just controlled the peloton”
It’s very obvious this Huon Salmon-Genesys Wealth Advisors team are not only a professional set up, but the riders unite as one, it’s a real ‘TEAM’ feel and this is what gives them the success. It’s certainly the bench mark for Australasia and how any aspiring teams should look to head in the future.
Race Director Jorge Sandoval also spoke to Roadcycling.co.nz about the week and the future of the Tour,
“This week has been a fantastic week, the stage finish up at the Meridian Wind farm was amazing to watch, next year I will be adding some activities to that stage to bring in more spectators to watch the riders finish there’
“I hope to carry on working hard and try to bring the racing to the public, maybe some more finishes closer to town, maybe near the square, but I am very happy”.
Race report and photo courtesy of www.roadcycling.co.nz