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It was thumbs-up for the BikeNZ endurance track squad after Auckland’s Aaron Gate sprinted his way to victory in the final stage of the New Zealand Cycle Classic in Palmerston North today [29 January].
Gate is part of the BikeNZ squad of Sam Bewley, Marc Ryan, Shane Archbold and Myron Simpson who used New Zealand’s only UCI sanctioned road tour as part of their Olympic preparations. They finished with two stage wins in the five stage event around the Manawatu.
Talented Australian Jay McCarthy (Jayco-AIS) managed to finish safely in the peloton in today’s 111-km final circuit stage in Palmerston North to retain his winning margin and claim the overall tour victory.
Gate capped off a superb day from the BikeNZ track squad who were prominent throughout the stage, keeping a fast pace that split the field.
“We organised before the race that we would try to split the bunch up in the crosswinds,” said Gate.
“The wind was pretty brutal today. I definitely had a couple of times in the gutter struggling along. But we were the ones trying to make the other people hurt at times so it definitely worked in our favour.
“Coming down the home straight I had the perfect lead out from Sam (Bewley) and Marc (Ryan).”
Gate’s win follows the stage three victory by Bewley to top off an excellent tour as they prepare for the upcoming Track World Championships and London Olympics campaigns.
“It’s been a really good solid week of training leading into the track world champs in April,” said Gate. “It’s good to get the kilometres in and great that the team could pull off two stage wins as well.”
McCarthy was strong enough in the final sprint to beat off rival Darren Lapthorne (Drapac) for the tour win, after holding a mere three second buffer over his fellow Australian going into the final stage.
“I’m very happy to come away with the win. The team did everything for me. It was a hard day today. Big ups to the New Zealand national team for making it a hard race,” said McCarthy.
However it was Wellington’s Joseph Cooper (Ricoh) who posed the biggest threat to McCarthy when he broke away with 20km remaining. But McCarthy’s teammate Nick Aitken, went with Cooper to cover the break and ensure he could not gain the minute and a half he needed to take the lead.
“I knew there was always going to be pressure today, but it wasn’t just Drapac giving it to us. We had Joe Cooper up the road with 20kms to go. But it made it a bit easier knowing that I had my teammate Nick Aitken up there.”
Cooper’s break proved short-lived as the BikeNZ team set Gate for the sprint, with the Wellington rider however earning the King of the Mountain title, which he won at this event last year.
Taupo professional Patrick Bevin, based in the United States, took out the sprint classification.
Stage 5, 111km: Aaron Gate (BikeNZ) 2:35:00, 1; Thomas Palmer (Drapac Professional Cycling) same time 2; Joe Lewis (RBS Morgans – ATS) same time, 3.
Final General Classification: Jay McCarthy (Jayco-AIS) 12:32:53, 1; Darren Lapthorne (Drapac Professional Cycling) at 9 secs, 2; Campbell Flakemore (Genesys Wealth Advisors) at 1.17, 3.