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Defending champion on song

Aaron Gate winning the first stage of the NZ Cycle Classic in Masterton on Wednesday. PHOTOS/DAVE LINTOTT/LINTOTT PHOTOGRAPHY

Teamwork powers Gate home


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Aaron Gate made the perfect start in defence of his New Zealand Classic title on Wednesday by winning a sprint finish up Manuka St to claim the yellow jersey.

However, the 2019 champion could have thought he’d done enough to retain his title when he was mistakenly presented with the 2020 tour winner’s jersey in what was an outstanding race debut for the Black Spoke Pro Cycling Academy.

Gate, who completed the 122km stage in two hours, 49 minutes, 41 seconds said he couldn’t be happier.

“The boys did an amazing job today. It was complete textbook run into the finish, which is almost unheard of, I suppose, for a team that has just come together.

“Hats off to the guys there. I just had to do the last 200m and managed to finish it off,” he said.

“Everyone’s been training away and it’s all come together on the day. It’s good to get that win under the belt in the first race of the season for the new team.

The peloton weaving through countryside north of Masterton during Wednesday’s 122km stage.

“Hopefully, we can continue the success for the rest of the week now.”

Gate outsprinted Australian Jensen Plowright [BridgeLane] and 2015 New Zealand team pursuit world champion Dylan Kennett, who claimed the sprint ace jersey, in the uphill finish outside the Masterton Golf Club.

In what was very fast stage, the peloton hauled in a break away by Frank Sutton [WBS Cycling Team] and Logan Griffin [Cabjaks-Castelli] in the final few kilometres to set up the sprint.

“We had mostly a tailwind heading out on the circuit and a headwind slog home so it was hard work for those two boys off in front of the peloton but we managed to wheel them in just in time to have a sprint at the finish” Gate said.

“We did leave it late. I wouldn’t say panic but I was like there’s still a bit time to go with only 15km to go.

“That’s the way it goes when everyone’s fighting hard with 10km to go. You do need to a have a good advantage for the final run especially with an uphill finish.

“When you’ve got fresh legs coming from behind it’s pretty easy to pull time out of guys who’ve been slogging away all day up the road.”

Black Spoke may have gone into the Classic under the radar, but Gate expected that to change now.

Cycling fans at Lansdowne Hill watching Wednesday’s race.

“I think we’ll be watched for the rest of the week now and it’s good to have some options in the rest of the team and play some different cards. I think everyone’s in good spirits now and hopefully we can keep attacking for the rest of the race.”

Stage One – 122km – Masterton-Alfredton-Masterton

Aaron Gate, NZ [Black Spoke] 2hr 49:41 1, Jensen Plowright, Australia, [BridgeLane] same time 2, Dylan Kennett, NZ [St George Continental], at 1sec 3.

Leading general classification [after bonuses]

Gate 1; Plowright 2, Kennett 3 [both at 4sec]; Corbin Strong, NZ [New Zealand national team] 4, Ayden Toovey, Australia [BridgeLane] 5, Luke Mudgway, NZ [Black Spoke] 6 [all at 13sec]; Connor Brown, NZ [New Zealand national team] 7, Elliot Schultz, Australia [Memil] 8, Thomas Bolton, Australia [Oliver’s Real Food] 9, Jason Christie, NZ [AISAN] 10 [all at 15sec]

Sprint ace – Kennett 11 points, Gate 10, Plowright 8.

KOM – Marcus Culey – Australia [Sapura] 6 points; Boris Clarke, NZ [Euro Cycling] 4; Finn Fisher-Black, NZ [NZ national team] 2.

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