Australian Nathan Earle got his first taste of Manawatu's hills during the New Zealand Cycle Classic yesterday and must have liked what he saw.
The Huon Salmon Genesys Wealth Advisers rider won the 148km second stage of the tour in 3 hours 27 minutes 37 seconds through the hills of Kimbolton, Apiti and Pohangina Valley, to take the yellow leader's jersey from team- mate Joseph Cooper.
The rest of his team were familiar with the stage from last year, which Earle didn't ride, so it was harder than he thought. He said even though there were no big hills, they all added up.
With the big Saddle Rd climb tomorrow, whoever tackles the remaining hills best will be in the box seat to keep the leader's jersey.
"I'm not sure what the times are, but I'm guessing we've got a decent lead and we've just got to defend it," he said.
"When we get to that climb I'm pretty confident even if I'm a bit knackered and can't win the stage, I'm confident I won't lose too much time. If all goes well, hopefully we can hold it to the end."
Earle, who now has a firm grip on the leader's jersey, did well during the stage as he was part of a 12-man breakaway 35km in after Cheltenham who stretched out to an eight-minute lead.
He then left that group behind with about 20km to go and went out on his own, which in the end won him the stage by 32 seconds and the yellow jersey, which he was confident they could keep.
The 24-year-old said it was attack after attack during the race, but they managed to have team-mates involved in most of them.
"There was nothing major out there . . . but with the wind and just the aggressive racing, it all just added up. And by the time we were hitting 100-120km, all the little hills and little accelerations and attacks started adding up and the legs really started feeling it.'
New Zealand rider Alex Frame took the under-23 rider's jersey from Earle's team-mate Campbell Flakemore, while Chris Jory led the King of the Mountain category and Paul Odlin was the leading sprinter.
Genesys lead the overall team standings.
The third stage today was a 147km reverse of yesterday's stage and tomorrow's is 135km from Palmerston North, five laps around Colyton and Hiwinui before finishing at the top of Saddle Rd.
STAGE TWO RESULTS 1. Nathan Earle (Genesys) 3hr 27min 37sec; 2. Roman Van Uden (Massey) at 31s; 3. Alex Frame (Trek-Vittoria) at 31s; 4. Chris Jory (GPM-Data#3) at 37s; 5. William Walker (Drapac Professional Cycling) at 37s. Overall standings day two: 1. Nathan Earle (Genesys) 3hr 37min 20sec; 2. Benjamin Dyball (Genesys) at 36s; 3. Alex Frame (Trek) at 40s; 4. Roman Van Uden (Massey) at 43s; 5. Patrick Shaw (Genesys) at 46s; 6. William Walker (Drapac) at 54s; 7. Samuel Horgan (Budget Forklfts) at 01m02s; 8. Chris Jory (GPM) at 01m02s; 9. Michael Torckler (New Zealand) at 01m04s; 10. Tim Rush (Tait Communications) at 01m36s; 11. Ryan Wills (NZ) at 01m37s; 12. Matt Cronshaw (Meridian Cycling Team) at 05m37s; 13. Joseph Cooper (Genesys) at 09m53s; 14. Campbell Flakemore (Genesys) at 10m05s; 15. Darren Lapthorne (Drapac) at 10m12s; 16. Malcolm Rudolph (Drapac) at 10m16s; 17. Joseph Lewis (GPM) at 10m22s; 18. Thomas Palmer (Drapac) at 10m27s; 19. Paul Odlin (Armstrong Motor Group) at 10m27s; 20. Scott Thomas (Tait) at 10m37s; 21. Jason Christie (Armstrong) at 10m38s; 22. Blair Windsor (BFL) at 10m41s; 23. Kieran Hambrook (Team Tineli) at 10m42s; 24. Clinton Avery (Trek) at 10m43s; 25. Morgan Smith (Capital Cycles) at 10m45s.
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