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Mountain king Oram grabs tour lead

by Gary Caffell

A Kiwi was calling the tune after stage two of the New Zealand Cycling Classic yesterday.

Out front on general classification was James Oram, part of a powerful New Zealand national team, which despite having an average age of just 22, have five members with professional road racing experience behind them.

Currently contracted to race for One Pro Racing on the European circuit, Oram knows what it takes to be competitive in the NZCC.

He finished second on general classification in 2015, just 15secs off taking the title, and was fourth last year when he took first placing over the same course as yesterday – only then it came near the end rather than the start of the event.

The question now will be whether Oram can show the same authority over the last three stages of this year’s tour when speed will be the main ingredient to success, unlike yesterday when the 147km course from Masterton to Gladstone included the climbs up Limeworks hill and Te Wharau hill before heading to the finish atop the torturous Admiral hill. Stamina and endurance were vital there.

Oram did not win the stage but his second placing behind Australian Sam Crome (IsoWhey Sports Swiss Wellness) was enough to give him the yellow jersey as tour leader as well as the lead in the King of the Mountains category.

Crome was delighted to be first home in 3hrs 49mins 2secs but admitted later to a bitter sweet feeling because his teammate Tim Roe, who had won Sunday’s first stage, no longer had the yellow jersey.

Crome said his tactics revolved around biding his time and attacking whenever the opportunity arose.

“I got the stage win for the team but we haven’t got the yellow so we will aim to get that back now.

“It is what it is. It wasn’t enough, it was unfortunate but we are still in it.”

Weather conditions for yesterday’s stage were much improved from that of the previous day with a quartet of riders, Oram’s teammate Luke Mudgeway, Nick Reddish (Oliver’s Real Food Racing), Dylan Newberry (Team Mobius Future Racing) and Morgan Smith (Trust House), breaking away and doing the hard graft over most of the first 100kms.

At one point they were all of 3mins 35secs ahead of the peleton, but by the time the leaders reached the base of Admiral Hill it was Crome and Oram who emerged as the most likely contenders for the stage win and so it proved.

The last kilometre saw Crome lift the ante and in the end he had seven seconds to spare from Oram but the latter’s effort was still good enough to see him wearing the yellow jersey today.

Third to finish was Steve Lampier (JLT Condor).

Understandably Oram was delighted with that situation, saying that he had wanted to make this particular stage as hard as possible and that teammate Mudgeway had been a big help ensuring that was the case.

He said the New Zealand national team was determined to be aggressive as possible over the next three days.

Two-time Olympic rowing champion Hamish Bond was nursing a sore and swollen shoulder after coming off his bike the previous day but came through yesterday’s stage in good heart.

He said the main rewards had gone to the “bold and the brave” but he was pleased with his own efforts and looking forward to the remaining three days.

Leading the under-23 section of the NZCC is Alex West (Team Skoda) while the most sprint points are shared by Luke Mudgeway (New Zealand national team) and Robert McCarty (JLT Condor).

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