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Stewart digs in for yellow jersey

Black Spoke’s Mark Stewart, delight with his Yellow Jersey. PHOTOS/DAVE LINTOTT


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Scotsman Mark Stewart wore the yellow jersey in yesterday’s third stage of the New Zealand Cycle Classic after a gutsy second placing in Thursday’s stage from Masterton to Alfredton and back.

Keegan Hornblow wins the second stage outside the Masterton Golf Club.

Stewart was the only Bolton Equities Black Spoke Pro Cycling rider to make it into a breakaway of 14 riders from 10 teams about 15km into the race. That proved decisive as the breakaway built a lead of 13 minutes on the peloton.

The 2018 Commonwealth Games points race gold medallist, who has been based in New Zealand since the start of the covid-19 pandemic, knew he was in for a hard race without the support of any teammates, who had impressed in winning the opening stage, the teams’ time trial on Wednesday night.

“I knew I was in for a really tough time, and I really respect the way the guys threw it all at me, like I couldn’t have faulted it, but I was kind of cursing them at times,” said Stewart.

“The last five or 10km I thought well I’ll just see who’s next and there was another attack and another attack, but I figured if I let someone go then there’s the GC [general classification] and the stage gone.

“It was definitely hard work for me but it’s my first yellow jersey; I hope I look good in it.”

Coupland’s Bakery-Booth’s Group finish the teams’ time trial in an impressive 12min 06.4sec, the second fastest time of the night. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

A tangle of wheels in the final 200m, which had Laurence Pither [NZ national team] crash, benefited Stewart, who finished two seconds behind stage winner Keegan Hornblow from Coupland’s Bakery-Booth’s Group.

The 158km stage was one that Hornblow won’t forget, not only taking stage honours to move into second on GC, but also claiming the U23, sprint, and the most aggressive rider jerseys.

“I still can’t believe it,” said Hornblow.

“Once I saw the mix of riders we had in that break away early on, I thought I might be on to one here, and the gap blew out and I took it to the line.

“It was bit of a wet one, it was pretty cold to start with and then showers were on and off but to be honest I quite like that, and I was kind of keen to stay away from the heat.”

Regan Gough leads Black Spoke across the line in to claim the yellow jersey after the teams’ time trial.

Coupland’s did suffer a major blow, with Ari Scott crashing about 28km from the finish, leaving the team with only four riders for the final three stages.

The team in red and white had impressed in Wednesday night’s opening stage – the 10km teams’ time trial on the westside of Masterton. As the third team to set off Coupland’s almost maintained their top position only to be beaten by the last team to go, Black Spoke, by almost 22 seconds.

Black Spoke overcame the slightly windy conditions to finish the fast, flat 10km course in 11min 44.8sec with Coupland’s second in 12min 06.4 secs and the New Zealand National team third on 12min 11secs.

After being presented the yellow jersey Regan Gough paid tribute to his team.

“Each played a part in it, so it was awesome to get around there and I believe [we now have] a little bit of a buffer on the other guys so that is always good because it is going to come down to seconds out there this week. Just the nature of the course and the competition … so every second counts,” Gough said.


Stage 2 – 158.1km


Keegan Hornblow [Coupland’s Bakery-Booth’s Group] 3hrs 48:14 1, Mark Stewart [Black Spoke] 2sec 2, Bailey O’Donnell [Oxford Edge] 2sec 3.

Leading general classification [after bonuses]

Mark Stewart [Black Spoke] 3h 59.54 1, Keegan Hornblow [Coupland’s Bakery-Booth’s Group] 16s 2, George Jackson [MitoQ NZ Cycling Project] 32s 3.

Classification Jerseys

Fagan Motors U23Keegan Hornblow [Coupland’s Bakery-Booth’s Group]

WIZWireless Sprints: Keegan Hornblow [Coupland’s Bakery-Booth’s Group]

Premier Beehive Most Aggressive Rider: Keegan Hornblow [Coupland’s Bakery-Booth’s Group]

Mitre 10 MEGA King of the Mountains: Kees Duyveysteyn [MitoQ NZ Cycling Project]

Country Rentals Teams: St George Continental

Yesterday: Stage 3 – 127.3km
From Masterton to Martinborough, where riders completed nine laps of a 7.1km circuit in Martinborough finishing near The Square.

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