New Zealand National Team rider Kiaan Watts came with a powerful late surge to win the second stage of the Trust House New Zealand Cycle Classic in Martinborough yesterday.
However, Bolton Equities Black Spoke’s James Oram retained the yellow jersey, protecting his lead, comfortably finishing in the main bunch in 25th place.
Watts was near the front of the peloton heading down the final straight for the sprint finish, and timed his run perfectly in the last 30m, powering past Australian Matthew Rice riding for the CCACHE Par KUP team with Black Spoke’s Luke Mudgway third and Japanese rider Daiki Magosaki [KINAN] in fourth place.
“It was pretty hectic in the last kilometre but I was glad to make it through on the side,” Watts said at the finish line in the Martinborough Square.
“You really want to be in the top 10 wheels into that last corner, which is about 700m to go, and I just made it inside there and was about seventh wheel, and just ended up inside.
“I was coming in at some pace but those CCACHE Par KUP guys did a good lead out and I was a bit worried their lead out man was going to swing left and ride to my way, but I just managed to sneak past them.”
Although Watts took line honours in the exciting finish, it was an unkown who set up the race with a gutsy breakaway. Australian Sean Moran [Tandem Co Pro Cycling], riding in his first UCI stage race, burst clear of the peloton about 15km into the race and rode solo into a strong southerly headwind. He was soon joined by Edwin Britt (CCACHE) and Ari Scott (Couplands Booths Group), and the trio gained a two-minute gap on the peloton,
After Britt and Scott were absorbed back into the peloton, Moran rode solo again until he was caught by countryman Jack Aitken [St George Continental], and Kiwi Camden Feint [Oxford Edge] at 48km on the outskirts of Martinborough.
The trio built an advantage of three minutes over the peloton but were slowly hauled in with about two laps of the 8km Martinborough circuit remaining. All three were rewarded with classification jerseys. Moran took the King of the Mountain lead, Feint was presented with the Sprint Ace, and Aitken was named the Most Aggressive Rider for the second consecutive stage.
In a special moment during prizegiving, race director Jorge Sandoval welcomed Alice Baird to the podium and told the appreciative crowd that it was thanks to her, this tour had begun 36 years ago.
“Alice was instrumental in helping me establish this NZ Cycle Classic and has always been a great supporter. It was so great to see her today, after so many years,” Sandoval said.
Todays’ third stage, dubbed the “Queen Stage” is potentially the tour decider, and Oram is confident it will suit his Black Spoke team.
“Normally, a solid breakaway can stay together until the finish [up Admiral Hill] which will play into our hands, and it will be really nice if we can be in that group,” Oram said.
The 155km stage features several challenging hill climbs, including three times over Te Wharau Hill [once in the east-west direction] and finishes with a brutal 11km climb to the top of the Admiral Hill Road, and the Classic winner has often been the winner of this stage.
The riders will leave Copthorne Hotel and Resort Solway Park at 10am, with the racing to start by Hullena Park. They are expected to finish about 1.50pm.