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Tour of New Zealand honours go on the line in Wellington tomorrow after a week of racing comes to a head with South and North Island competitors clashing in an exciting criterium around parliament in Wellington.
South Island individual solo leader Geoff Williamson made it two stage wins in a row finishing first in the South Island’s final stage of the Tour from Blenheim to Picton today.
The leading North Island solo rider, Japan based New Zealander Dan Underwood, also cemented his lead today to set up an exciting clash between the two riders for overall individual tour honours tomorrow.
Williamson won the 65 kilometre stage that went via Havelock in one hour forty six minutes and 17 seconds to further extend his lead in the South Island’s individual rider standings. Williamson has taken nineteen hours and 30 minutes to complete the seven stages.
Third placed individual Juarez Carvalho again managed to stay with Williamson to further close the gap on second placed Simon Yarrell to one minute and thirty one seconds. Williamson is 32 minutes ahead of Yarrell.
The three leading solo South Island riders have a very comfortable lead of over two hours to the next placed cyclists Robert Cooper and Andrew Marsh.
The South Islands only individual female Jan Litt has taken 25 hours and 37 minutes to reach Picton and is eighth overall in the South Island’s individual rankings.
In the North Island Underwood leads Roger Whitefield by over 20 minutes with Daren Courtnage lying third. The North Island’s only individual female Dian Bell is fifth and will fight out overall tour honours with the South Island’s Litt.
The Christchurch Boys High School team, led by professional mountain biker Anton Cooper, finished with Williamson to extend their lead in the South Island team’s competition to over 40 minutes going into the final day’s racing in Wellington.
Christchurch Boys High has taken 19 hours and three minutes to complete the tour’s seven South Island stages. Crombie and Price on Tour are 40 minutes behind the school team and Wensleys Cycles from Invercargill are still third, 22 minutes further back, nine minutes ahead of fourth placed team Late Bloomers.
Fireworks are expected in the team’s clash with the young guns from Christchurch Boys High taking on North Island leaders the Air Force Ohakea team for overall Tour team honours. Both teams have been very dominant and organiser Simon Yarrell thinks it is tough to pick a winner.
“It will come down to who has managed themselves best over the week and just how much is left in the tank remains to be seen,” he said. “It has just been an amazing week and finishing with a race in central Wellington around Parliament is just incredible. There will be some tied bodies but I expect the adrenalin will kick in once we’re racing tomorrow.”
The Air Force team is over 30 minutes ahead of The Smokin Arrows North Island team with Powered by Stroopies another 30 minutes further back in third.
Yarrell says it is hard to believe the Tour started simultaneously at Stirling Point near Bluff and Cape Reinga a week ago.
“It really has been an amazing journey,” he says. “Not just the last week of actual riding and racing, but the whole build up, planning and the huge amount of effort, work and support that has got us to this point is hard to put words to. We have so many people to thank, but it’s not quite over yet and everyone is really looking forward to tomorrow.”
Yarrell said many of the international riders were already planning to come back next year and bring more cyclists and supporters back with them.